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Erie, PA Legal Blog

Asphalt plant accident highlights workplace safety failures

When workers in Pennsylvania operate asphalt plants, they may be at risk of catastrophic workplace accidents and injuries. In one case, a serious incident was caused by a fire and explosion that took place after diesel was used to clean the asphalt tank. In this case, a man opened a valve to allow a 55-gallon drum of diesel fuel and began the cleaning process.

After the cleaning began, the plant operator started the asphalt pump but saw a puff of smoke and then a severe explosion. The explosion engulfed the man spraying diesel in flames; it likely would have been fatal if not for a water truck making the rounds and directing a stream of water at the injured man on the ground and extinguishing the blaze. The man who had been spraying diesel was severely burned throughout his body, and while he survived, the workplace injury ended his career; he received disability for the rest of his life.

Study links distracted driving fatality rates with cellphone laws

ValuePenguin has calculated the distracted driving fatality rates of all 50 states for the years 2015 to 2017, and its conclusions should be of interest to Pennsylvania residents. Analysts found that the states with higher fatality rates tended to have less far-reaching laws regarding cellphone use.

Thirteen states were determined to have the most far-reaching laws, and these experienced nearly 30 percent fewer fatalities than the rest of the nation. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., completely ban handheld devices among drivers; these had fatality rates that were 44 percent lower than those states only partial bans or no bans at all.

Stopping carbon monoxide exposure at work

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration reminder has been issued to employers in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country to protect workers from the effects of being exposed to carbon monoxide. This is in reaction to a number of incidents that emphasize the need to instruct workers and employers about the carbon monoxide exposure dangers caused by the use of portable generators and other tools inside of enclosed areas.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is odorless and colorless, and workers and employers should be able to recognize the indications of being overexposed. Typical carbon monoxide overexposure symptoms may include dizziness, nausea, tightness across the chest, headaches, drowsiness and vomiting. People who suffer from severe overexposure of the gas can experience neurological damage, become comatose or die.

The data on large truck accidents in the United States

Drivers in Pennsylvania may be interested in learning about how their state compares to others when it comes to fatal accidents involving large trucks. A recent report was released that shows that from 2009 to 2017 there was an increase in the United States in the number of big rig truck accidents that led to fatalities. During that time, 35,882 people died in accidents involving large trucks.

It is thought that some of these deaths could have been avoided if the law required big rig trucks to have speed-limiting technology as well as automatic emergency braking technology. Interestingly, between 2009 and 2016, truckers drove fewer miles on the road than they did in previous years. Still, the number of accidents and the number of fatal accidents increased.

Commuters should avoid the three types of distracted driving

As a commuter, you probably spend more time on the road than many other drivers in Pennsylvania. Because of the amount of time you spend on the road, it is understandable that you might get distracted from time to time. However, every day in the United States about nine people are killed and over 1,000 are injured because of distracted drivers. To help prevent being involved in a distracted driving accident, it may be beneficial to brush up on the three types of distracted driving and consider ways to avoid these habits.

Three types of distractions to avoid

Privacy ruling could have effect on law enforcement

When it comes to a person's home or car, law enforcement can't search legally except under very limited circumstances. And while the issue hasn't been addressed by Pennsylvania courts, a California judge recently ruled that those same protections prevent federal law enforcement from forcing someone to unlock their mobile phone using biometrics like a fingerprint.

The case, decided in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, has the potential to be a landmark decision if appeals courts agree. This comes on the heels of a series of cases where courts ruled law enforcement could not force a defendant to divulge a password to their mobile device. The court in this case held that all login information was equal and that the use of a fingerprint or a facial recognition scan is no different than coercing a password from an unwilling defendant.

Pennsylvania ranked in the top 20 for disability services

Among the things that can have major impacts on people with disabilities here in Pennsylvania are what policies and practices are present in the state for helping those with disabilities.

Recently, the states were ranked on such policies by the ANCOR Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. How did Pennsylvania do in these rankings?

Old Advice Is Still The Best

There's an old adage - often attributed to luminaries such as Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain - that rings true in the context of criminal defense: 

  • "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt" OR "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt." 

 

Why should you remain silent during police questioning?

If a police officer questions you about a crime, your first instinct may be to fully explain the details of the event. After all, you may think that you are helping by providing a complete report to the police.

The only problem is, this rarely works. The more you speak, the greater chance you have of increasing police suspicion.

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