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Safety guidelines could protect electrical workers

Electrical workers in New Jersey may be exposed to an array of dangers on the job, especially when dealing with live electricity. Electrical injuries can be particularly dangerous, and workers have even lost their lives on the job due to workplace accidents and injuries. As a result, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reached out to private industry to construct a standard for assessing whether a workplace is electrically safe. OSHA, the federal agency responsible for taking enforcement action against dangerous workplaces and imposing regulations, frequently seeks to work in partnership with the industries it regulates.

In this case, industry produced a workplace safety standard known as NFPA 70E, which aims to lay out a set of guidelines and rules to ensure an electrically safe workplace. While these regulations protect worker safety, they are also designed with an eye toward increased efficiency and productivity on the job. Rather than taking more time and costing more money to have a safe workplace, many employers have found that they achieve more and have fewer unnecessary costs.

Report shows self-driving cars are far from road-ready

Drivers in New Jersey who are wary about autonomous vehicles should know about a report from the Rand Corporation. It says that automakers and autonomous vehicle developers are rushing to introduce self-driving cars, neglecting safety in the process. Road testing is essential, but it may require millions or even billions of miles before such cars are deemed to be reliable in preventing crashes.

Of all the companies that are developing self-driving car technology, Waymo has driven the most miles, testing its vehicles for over 10 million miles in the real world and for 7 billion miles on virtual roads through its in-house simulation technology. However, the Rand report states that even this is not enough; it may take decades or centuries for cars to be sufficiently tested.

Textalyzer could help police to identify distracted drivers

New Jersey has some of the strongest texting while driving punishments in the country. Repeat offenders could face fines of up to $800 and a possible loss of driving privileges. However, even strict laws and rigorous enforcement do not seem to be enough to convince motorists to put their cellphones down and concentrate on the road ahead. In Nevada, lawmakers are considering an approach that would allow police in the state to use controversial technology to gather evidence of distraction at crash scenes.

Tickets for texting while driving are rarely issued unless the police officer involved actually observes a motorist engaging in the behavior. This is because distraction leaves no obvious signs and is hard to identify after the fact. The "textalyzer" devices being mulled in Nevada plug into electronic devices and reveal evidence of texting and swiping. Under the proposed law, motorists who refuse to comply with a request to inspect their phones would face the same kind of penalties as drivers who refuse to submit to a breath test.

Tesla slapped more OSHA violations than other automakers

New Jersey Tesla owners may be concerned to learn that the automaker's California production plant racked up three times more federal workplace safety violations over a five-year period than its top 10 competitors combined. The information was reported by Forbes.

According to the news outlet, Tesla's Fremont plant employs approximately 15,000 workers and contractors to make its electric vehicles. That is more workers than any other automaker employs in a single U.S.-based facility. It has also translated into significantly more safety violations than have been reported at any other plant. Between 2014 and 2018, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 54 violations at the Fremont plant. In comparison, the automaker with the second most violations, Nissan, received just five violations at its Tennessee plant over the same period of time.

Are you receiving all of your workers’ compensation benefits?

If you recently suffered an injury on the job, then you are probably somewhere in the workers' compensation claim process. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may require out-patient medical procedures and may not be able to work during your recovery. This is often a frightening, stressful place to find yourself.

It is important to understand that workers' compensation insurance protects employers as much or more than it may provide for workers' needs. It is rarely wise to accept the benefits the insurer offers you without reviewing them carefully. In many instances, insurers can and will provide more than their initial offer, if you know the benefits you should expect and how to pursue them.

The challenge of maintaining safety for temp workers

It's an ongoing challenge to ensure that temporary contracted workers receive appropriate protection from workplace accidents, according to OSHA and many safety advocates. Too often, New Jersey companies view temps as somehow separate from the rest of the workforce. Employers that view contract workers in this light may not treat all workers with adequate respect. For example, companies may ask temp workers to engage in unsafe activities deemed beneath full-time employees. In 2016 alone, the U.S. witnessed over 850 workplace fatalities that involved contracted employees. Experts estimate that contract worker deaths account for more than 15 percent of American workplace fatalities.

Because temp workers are newer to their jobs, they generally have less familiarity with work equipment and potential safety hazards. For a number of reasons, temp workers may not feel empowered to speak out when faced with unsafe situations.

Key tips for staying safe at work

Ideally, both workers and managers in New Jersey and throughout the country will take responsibility for workplace safety. Workers are encouraged to report any unsafe conditions to their immediate supervisors or anyone else who can remedy the problem in a timely manner. Another safety strategy is to make sure that emergency exits are easy to access at all times. Emergency shutoffs should also be easy to access and make use of in times of peril.

Workers should be allowed to take regular breaks to avoid burnout or extreme fatigue. Those who are tired or burned out may have a harder time doing their jobs properly, and they are more likely to make mistakes that could lead to injuries or illnesses. Breaks may also be a good way to reduce worker stress, which can play a role in a person burning out. Stress can be caused by long hours or being assigned too many tasks in a given workday.

Distracted driving still poses a roadway danger

New Jersey drivers continue to operate their vehicles while distracted despite growing efforts to crack down on distracted driving and educate the public about its dangers. One study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that from 2014 to 2018, rates of distracted driving remained roughly the same. However, researchers also documented that the types of distraction have changed over time, becoming even more dangerous. The study compared the results of observational surveys of drivers in 2014 and 2018, measuring behavior while driving and while stopped at red lights.

The nonprofit agency funded by the insurance industry found that drivers are less likely to engage in voice conversations on a handheld cellphone while driving than in the past. However, they are also 57 percent more likely to use their mobile devices to send text messages or surf the internet. This change reflects an overall difference in how people use their phones, but it can also pose a greater threat. Driving while talking on a handheld phone is dangerous, and drivers' eyes often shift to the center of the road. However, driving while manipulating a phone by hand, including typing and texting, increases the risk of fatal car accidents by 66 percent.

Controversy builds over OSHA's authorization of drone inspections

A 2018 OSHA memorandum now allows its investigators to use camera-equipped drones during workplace inspections. Many contractors in New Jersey and across the U.S. are objecting to the measure, saying that the drones, which are capable of taking pictures and video recordings, can violate privacy.

The main concern is how the employer's right to object to inspections will be affected. OSHA's investigators require permission from an employer before conducting an inspection; however, if the construction site has multiple employers working on it, the permission of one employer will affect the rights of the others. Another question involves the ownership of the airspace above a construction site.

It is possible to prove someone was on their phone during a crash

In a lot of personal injury cases, the only evidence available is the testimony of the two or more people involved. It can be hard to determine what is true, what is an exaggeration and what is a lie. When the circumstance involves a motor vehicle collision, thousands of dollars worth of damages and losses may be involved.

The good news for victims of negligent drivers who chose to text at the wheel is that it is very often possible to prove that somebody had their phone out at the time of a crash. Your word alone won't be the only information available. If you can prove that the other party was on their phone while driving, that alone may be sufficient grounds for a personal injury claim in New Jersey after a car crash.

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Law Office of Jack L. Stillman, P.A.
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