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Erie, PA Legal Blog

NHTSA releases preliminary 2018 road fatalities report

Road deaths in Pennsylvania and around the country fell slightly in 2018 according to recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the agency's preliminary fatality report also reveals a worrying rise in the number of pedestrians and cyclist killed. Motor vehicle accident fatalities rose sharply in 2015 and 2016 after several decades of gradual decline, and most road safety experts said that cellphone use and distracted driving was largely to blame.

In 2018, 36,750 road users where killed while 37,133 died in 2017, but both of these death tolls represent double-digit increases over the 32,744 fatalities recorded in 2014. When the final figures are in, NHTSA expects them to reveal a 4% increase in pedestrian fatalities and an alarming 10% rise in cyclist deaths. Road deaths in NHTSA's Region 2, which is made up of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut fell by 1% in 2018 according to the preliminary fatality report.

Preventing heat-related illness in the workplace

With an estimated 1,300 workers dying from heat-related illness each year in Pennsylvania and across the U.S., employers must do all they can to keep their workers safe during the warmer months. There are several protective actions that employers can take.

All employers should develop an injury and illness prevention program. If tailored to the size of the workforce, the length of workers' shifts and the area temperatures, an IIPP can help workers identify heat-related hazards and do something to reduce them. Employers should also receive heat stress prevention training so that they know the impact of heat on health and the symptoms of heat stress.

Tesla Autopilot faces new criticisms

Pennsylvania residents may know that Tesla is one of the leading proponents of autonomous vehicle technology despite some setbacks. The company's Autopilot feature, which was introduced in 2018, has been linked to a series of deadly crashes. An update to the software released in April was said to have addressed many of its problems. However, recent tests of cars fitted with the latest version of Autopilot conducted by Consumer Reports magazine suggest that the system is still far from safe.

Autopilot uses cameras, radar and lidar to monitor road conditions. The technology is designed to be able to speed up, slow down and change lanes automatically, but Consumer Reports researchers say that it often performs these tasks in an unsafe manner. The results of the tests were published by the magazine on May 22. The researchers say that the system must be monitored closely when in use.

Social Security Disability denied: what is my next step?

According to studies, one in four workers will experience a disability that prevents them from working by the time they reach retirement. While disabilities may not be uncommon for workers, the process for applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be extremely frustrating and time consuming.

SSDI applications have a notoriously high rejection rate. Well over half of qualified SSDI claims are denied the first time. However, just because your application gets denied does not mean that you have no hope of receiving benefits or that you need to start the process from scratch.

CVSA to increase traffic law enforcement July 14 to 20

From July 14 to 20, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will have law enforcement officials across Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S. looking out for unsafe drivers. This period of increased enforcement is called Operation Safe Driver Week, and it is an annual event. Both passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle drivers are liable to be stopped and issued a warning or citation.

Police will be looking for negligent behavior like seat belt neglect, improper lane changes, calling and texting behind the wheel, and ignoring traffic control devices. They will also check for signs of drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. Above all, though, they will be stopping speeders.

Truckers distrust safety tech, find ways to manipulate it

Truck fleet owners in Pennsylvania and across the US are adding new safety tech to their vehicles, but this in itself is not enough. Many truckers are actually disabling or manipulating the devices, perhaps out of distrust for the technology or a desire to act recklessly without anyone knowing it. They have learned many methods through YouTube videos.

Truckers can learn how to disable the steering-wheel sensor, unplug the speakers and cut the wires to the in-cab camera. They may slide a business card behind the camera so that it does not record their actions. They may push in the lane departure warning switch and stick paper down into it. They may tamper with the radar by lining the covering with aluminum foil.

Falls cause almost half of all traumatic brain injuries

The brain performs a variety of functions. It regulates life-sustaining activities, manages physical movements, remembers language skills, solves problems and allows creativity. Because our brains do so many things, it can be life-altering if someone's brain becomes injured.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) usually occurs when someone receives a forceful blow to the head. It can also be caused when there is a sudden change in velocity or when an object penetrates the skull. Because each injury is unique in type, severity and location, TBIs often cause different problems for different people.

Falls, overexertion common causes of workplace injuries

Pennsylvania workers could be at risk of a serious injury accident. Some types of workplace incidents are more common than others. Liberty Mutual tracked some of the most frequent ones. The most common cause was overexertion, causing $13.11 billion in medical bills and other costs. The second most common cause was a fall on the same level, while the third most frequent way people were hurt at work was by being struck by equipment or another object.

Falling to a lower level, roadway incidents and motor vehicle accidents and slip or trip injuries were some of the other most common workplace accidents. Repetitive motion can always lead to serious injuries, as can being compressed between objects or struck against equipment. In total, the top 10 most disabling workplace accidents and injuries cost $46.93 billion each year. The study also examined the most common problems in specific industries. For example, construction workers were most likely to suffer severe injuries after falling to a lower level, and next most likely to be struck by an object. On the other hand, professional services workers were most likely to fall on the same level.

Nurses' health can benefit from a fair workplace

For nurses in Pennsylvania and across the country, a fairer, more supportive working environment can also help to reduce workplace injuries. This was the finding of a study completed by researchers at Michigan State University and Portland State University, who noted that when nurses perceive that they receive less support than they give, they are also more likely to suffer workplace injuries. The types of support measured by the study varied greatly and included access to guidance and advice, help with their workload or simple expressions of care or empathy.

The physical demands of nursing already put many nurses at risk for physical injuries or accidents on the job. Nurses may have to move heavy patients or equipment from beds to wheelchairs or from one place to another. In addition, they often work long, 12-hour shifts that are particularly demanding. Therefore, they are already in danger of workplace injuries related to muscle or joint pains and strains in the shoulders, arms, hands and lower back. According to researchers, muscular and skeletal injuries can be exacerbated by angry feelings, such as those people experience when they perceive that they are being treated unfairly at work.

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.

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