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Council Bluffs Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Can my workplace be too noisy?

Generally, we think of Iowa workplace hazards as consisting of slippery floors, unsafe ladders and dangerous chemicals. However, you may not realize that excessive noise can also risk the health of people at their jobs. According to OSHA, as many as 22 million workers a year are subjected to noise that can damage the human body. In a single year, U.S. businesses had to pay out greater than 1.5 million in penalties for inadequately protecting their workers against harmful noise.

There are a few telltale signs that your workplace might have noise issues. First, you shouldn’t have problems communicating with a fellow worker that’s about an arm’s length from you. If you have to shout to be heard, the noise level is too loud. Also, you may be suffering from noise injury when your shift is over. Humming or ringing in the human ear is one sign you have exposed to excessive noise. Additionally, you may have temporary loss of hearing.

Can I file suit against my employer after a workplace injury?

Imagine your boss told you to climb up an old, rickety ladder to change a lightbulb. You protested, saying that the ladder was old and dangerous, but your boss insisted. Long story short, the ladder collapsed and you broke your leg.

If something like this happened to you, you're probably feeling wronged -- as if your employer forced you to do something that was unreasonably dangerous. You might also be wondering if you can sue your employer for personal injury damages instead of filing a workers' compensation claim.

The power to make the meatpacking industry a safer place

You might know that agriculture and meat processing are among the most important industries to the Iowa and Nebraska economies. You may also be aware that jobs in these fields are sometimes dangerous. Here at the Law Offices of Gallner & Pattermann, P.C., we often serve on the front lines of litigation involving these occupational injuries and illnesses. Here are some of the insights we have gained as safety advocates.

Your employer is responsible for keeping adequate safety levels in the facilities where you work. It is also likely your company or boss has practices and policies in place for personal safety training, guidelines, materials and equipment. However, you might be able to reduce your overall risk of injury by supplementing with some knowledge of your own. Try researching exercises that may reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries, for example.

Roundup weed killer: a deadly danger

Farmers and agricultural workers in Iowa should be aware that Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship weed killer, may cause Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of cancer. As reported earlier this year by the Mercury News, there are now over 700 lawsuits pending against Monsanto throughout the country.

The culprit is glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, released a study saying that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. At that time, Roundup was garnering $15 billion in annual sales. Not surprisingly, Monsanto disputed the IARC’s findings and has been arguing ever since that Roundup is perfectly safe for humans to use. Today, over 250 million pounds of Roundup and Monsanto’s other glyphosate products are sprayed every year on crops, lawns, golf courses and public and private parks. Monsanto has received $4.8 billion in revenue from the U.S. sales of Roundup alone.

Do respirators fully protect people from toxic exposure?

Toxic exposure in the workplace is an unavoidable risk in many Iowa occupations, and your protective equipment is usually intended to mitigate that risk to the greatest degree possible. However, the properties of various professional hazards warrant the careful implementation of masks, breathing apparatus or respirators appropriate to your specific situation. To understand what your safety gear may or may not be reasonably assumed to do, it is often useful to turn to the manufacturer for specific information.

Moldex, a leading manufacturer of respirators, issues a number of telling disclaimers in its chemical selection guide. If you or someone you love has toxicity concerns, it might interest you to know that this respirator company states that their products do not eliminate risk of injury. As an exposed worker, you might also be surprised to learn that Moldex places the responsibility of selecting appropriate respiratory gear upon your employer.

Did you lose a loved one in a fatal job-related accident?

The day started just like any other day. You and your husband drank coffee together before heading to work. The thing is, this day ended differently. Your husband didn't come home. He suffered a tragic accident where he was working, and doctors weren't able to save him.

Unexpectedly losing a spouse like this is one of the most challenging experiences anyone has to endure. It could take years to come to terms with such a loss psychologically. However, aside from the emotional difficulties, you will also suffer financially. If your spouse was a major contributor to family income, your family might be unable to support itself anymore.

What should employees know about workers' compensation in Iowa?

Workers who are injured while they are working in Iowa might need to file for workers' compensation benefits. These benefits are meant to cover the expenses and damages of the injury.

There are several things that injured workers need to know about workers' compensation coverage. Here are some of the basics:

What injuries are common among restaurant workers?

If you are among the many Iowa residents who make a living working within the restaurant or food service industries, you probably have at least a general idea of the types of specific workplace hazards you face every time you clock in to work. Recognizing the unique occupational hazards you face will help you avoid accidents to some degree, and your employer, can do his or her part to enhance safety by ensuring you and your colleagues are properly trained and protected on the job.

According to QSR magazine, restaurant injuries are quite common. So much so, in fact, that about one in every 20 occupational injuries and illnesses around the world occur or develop in restaurant settings. Leading the list of the most common restaurant injuries are cuts, lacerations and punctures, which, as you might expect, can result from working with knives, slicers, glass and so on. Burns are the second-most common restaurant injury in America, with as many as one-third of all reported occupational burns happening in restaurant and food-service settings.

Why construction workers suffer back injuries

Iowa construction workers, as well as construction workers all across America, face a higher risk of developing a musculosketal disorder than do all other workers combined. A recent study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training concluded that back injuries represent 40 percent of all construction injuries and cost over $46 million in lost wages in 2014. Older construction workers and those on the job for more than five years are particularly at risk for back injuries.

Construction workers are constantly exposed to back injury risks because they often are required to lift and/or carry heavy loads, maintain awkward postures and repeat the same body movements over and over again. Over time, such activities cause the body to become chronically fatigued, losing its ability to recover from each successive injury. Resulting back injuries and conditions can include such things as ligament sprains, tendon and muscle strains, tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) and degenerative disc disease.

The dark side of the nail salon industry

Many people in Iowa and elsewhere regularly visit nail salons to have beautifully designed nail extensions sculpted and lacquered on their fingers. While a clean and shiny manicure is often considered glamorous and professional, there is a price that many nail technicians pay when providing this service for their clients.

There is a distinct odor to nail salons, especially those that offer acrylic nail extensions. Some customers like this distinctive scent, although many others are sensitive to the strong chemical smell. For those who work hours each day exposed to the fumes and getting these chemicals on their hands, the effects can be more than inconvenient – it can affect their health. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many hazardous chemicals are used in nail salons, including acetone, acid primer and monomer (the liquid used in acrylic applications). Adverse health effects include eye and skin irritation, dizziness, fainting and breathing problems. Some nail techs also experience more severe reactions, including allergies due to chronic chemical exposure and lung disease.

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