Pandemic Exposes Failures in Workplace Safety

restaurant covid
Restaurant work is one of the deadliest jobs during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit another tragic milestone in August, taking the lives of more than 600,000 Americans. While the last 16 months have been a terrifying experience for all Americans, it has been perilous for those who must work outside the home.
Over 3,600 healthcare workers died in the first 12 months of the pandemic. Among those workers, people of color and lower-paid workers who handled everyday patient care were far more likely to die than physicians. Another study showed that workers in the restaurant and agriculture industries saw a 40 percent increase in death rates, the highest during the pandemic. Warehouse, delivery, grocery, and retail workers also suffered from a higher rate of COVID-19 illness and death.

Certainly, the majority of employers have tried to protect their employees from the ravages of this disease. But too many businesses  – especially huge corporations – have put profits ahead of worker safety.

 

Workers in Peril

Here are examples of how some companies and government regulators failed to adequately protect workers from the pandemic:

  • Meatpackers
    Meatpacking plants have been a hotbed for COVID-19 transmission. One study showed that a large industrial meatpacking facility increased county per capita infection rates by 20% to 160%. Workers and their families claim that these plants ignored evidence of rising infection rates and instead implemented policies and practices that facilitated rather than diminished transmission.
  • Warehouse Workers
    New York State Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit against Amazon, saying the company “has repeatedly and persistently failed to adequately protect its workers in two New York City facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic and has even retaliated against those who voiced concerns.” Amazon’s profits rose 220% during the pandemic.
  • Nursing Home Residents and Staff
    Numerous reports have shown a massive breakdown in corporate and government oversight of infection management at thousands of nursing homes, contributing to skyrocketing deaths among residents and staff. Yet, many states have passed or are considering laws that give nursing homes immunity from legal action related to negligent care during the pandemic.
  • Grocery Workers
    Grocery workers have suffered a significant percentage of pandemic deaths, all while profits grew exponentially. And these workers aren’t out of the woods yet. Reports show the number of grocery workers infected or exposed to coronavirus has climbed 24% since March 1st, while deaths from the virus have jumped 30%.
  • Regulators
    Government oversight is also under scrutiny. Investigations show that the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has been lax in inspecting or reporting meatpacking plants. Response to worker complaints has been slow, and OSHA issued few penalties to employers. These complaints allege failures to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing, managers pressuring sick employees to continue working, and a lack of employee notification about co-worker infections.

The legal options for holding companies accountable for exposing workers to COVID-19 are limited and under attack. It is tough to prove that a worker was infected while on the job, especially in industries like meatpacking, where many workers live or travel to and from work together. Meanwhile, business interests are pushing immunity laws that shield companies from lawsuits related to COVID-19 injury or death unless the worker can prove gross negligence, willful misconduct, or failure to follow public health orders.

 

Minimizing Workplace Transmission

vaccine

Protecting yourself and coworkers from contracting coronavirus remains critical, especially as infections spike with the Delta variant. Here are some ways to help prevent transmission in the workplace:

  • Keep up to date on all state, city, and county regulations in regards to COVID-19.
  • Encourage your local and state policymakers to prioritize workers, and further protect communities from this pandemic.
  • You may or may not be living in a high-transmission community. Check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page for weekly data on the county you live in.
  • As always, follow health, hygiene, mask, and social distancing guidelines as the pandemic continues.
  • Get vaccinated if you can! Go to Vaccines.gov to find a provider near you.

Protect Teen Drivers This Summer with Our Safety Tips

Distractions, Inexperience and Risky Behavior Spell Trouble

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental death for teens. It is estimated that on average, six teenagers die every day in the United States from a car crash. As teens break for the summer, you should know how to keep them, and others, safe.

texting teen
Teens who text and drive are outside of their lane about 10% of the time.

The Stats

A teen driver on the road is more likely to cause a car crash than any other driver. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Young men are two times more likely to get in a crash than young women.

If your teen driver has recently received their license, inexperience can spell disaster out on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 17 are twice as likely to get in a car crash compared to teen drivers ages 18 to 19.

Teens are also less likely to practice safe driving behavior, such as using seat belts or maintaining a safe following distance. In 2019, only 57 percent of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. [Review report.]

The Risks

Teens are also much more likely to drive distracted. Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related crashes, and 42 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Carpooling seems like a convenient way to get to school, but teens riding with other teen drivers increase the risk of distraction with every additional teen passenger. Here are all eight of the CDC danger zones most often linked to teen crashes:

  1. Driver Inexperience
  2. Driving with Teen Passengers
  3. Nighttime Driving
  4. Not Using Seat Belts
  5. Distracted Driving
  6. Drowsy Driving
  7. Reckless Driving
  8. Impaired Driving

The Parents

So, what can parents do to prevent teen driving tragedies?

  • Most important, lead by example. Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen their parents talking on a cell phone while driving, and 15 percent of those have seen their parents texting while driving. Show your kids how to drive responsibly by driving distraction free, wearing your seatbelt and following all speed limits and traffic laws.
  • Set limits. Multiple teen passengers and late-night driving lead to more crashes. Limit the number of passengers for your teen drivers and set a curfew.
  • Buy a safe car. The car your teen drives should be reliable. Purchase from a reputable dealer, and check all cars at Safercar.gov for recalls. Make sure your young driver knows what to do if a car breaks down.
  • practice driving
    Experts suggest teens practice driving with parents 30 to 50 hours.
  • Practice driving with your teen. Provide your teen driver with 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months. Practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. Stress the importance of continually scanning for potential hazards, including other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Create a parent-teen driving agreement. Put your driving rules in writing to clearly set limits, as well as the consequences for not following those rules.

 

If you have been in an accident, contacting a lawyer is important! Even if you think you don’t need one.

Consultations are always free at The Hendon Law Firm. Call us today if you’ve been injured in a car accident, truck crash, or auto wreck.

Zack Hendon is conveniently located at 445 Franklin Gateway, SE, Suite 230, Marietta, GA 30067, telephone:  770-284-3737.

Distracted Driving and Car Accidents: How to Define It, Avoid It, Stop It

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,142 people were killed in 2019 crashes involving driver distraction. This number accounts for almost 9% of all fatalities in 2019, which is a 10% increase from 2018. Preliminary data from 2020 estimates that these numbers actually rose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Distracted Driving Involves Much More
Than Just Cell Phones, Texting

What exactly is distracted driving? Cell phones factor into many kinds of distractions, but there are plenty of other ways to lose focus while driving. The three types of distracted driving as identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving

This can include texting, talking on a phone, eating, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, adjusting music or reacting to the behavior of a passenger. Here are some good ways to avoid driving distracted:

  • Turn it off: Either turn off your phone or switch to silent mode before you get in the car. Never text, use social media or check email while driving.
  • Deputize your passengers: Ask your passengers to answer calls or texts for you. Conversely, if you are a passenger, offer to answer the driver’s phone.
  • Prepare: Review maps or lock in your navigation system before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a passenger or pull over to review or reset directions.
  • Secure your pets: Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
  • Focus on the task at hand: Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off your driving.

tired nurse

End Distracted Driving by Getting Involved

It will take all of us to realize a drastic reduction in crashes caused by distraction. Fortunately, there are many ways to get involved no matter your age or driving experience.

  • Teens are most likely to drive distracted. In 2019, 39% of high school students reported texting or emailing while driving during the past month. But teens can also be effective messengers with their peers, so encourage them to not only avoid distracted driving but also to speak up when they see a friend (or even another adult) driving while distracted.
  • Parents first have to lead by example — by never driving distracted — as well as talking to their young driver about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving. Remind your teen driver that in states with graduated driver licensing (GDL), violating distracted-driving laws could mean a delayed or suspended license. And remember to avoid calling your kids when you think they might be driving as teen drivers receive the most calls from their parents.
  • Educators and employers can play a part, too. Spread the word at your school or workplace about the dangers of distracted driving. Ask students to commit to distraction-free driving or set a company policy on distracted driving.

If you feel strongly about distracted driving, be a voice in your community by supporting local laws that make roads safer, speaking out at community meetings and highlighting the dangers of distracted driving to loved ones and on social media.