The Construction Industry’s”Fatal Four”

 

According to a report released in December of 2016 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,379 private industry worker fatalities occurred in the 2015 calendar year.  These industries include jobs in industries such as transportation, farming, fishing, forestry, and truck drivers, among others. Of those injuries, 21.4% were in construction. That’s one in five workers!

The Fatal Four

The “fatal four” in the construction injury represents the four leading causes of fatalities. They are responsible for more than half of the construction worker deaths in 2015. They include:

  1. Falls (38.8%);
  2. Struck by an object (9.6%);
  3. Electrocution (8.6%);
  4. Caught in/between (7.2%) (This includes fatalities due to being caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material).

Injuries and fatalities to contract workers are on the rise. Why?

  • Because many contract workers are thrown into dangerous jobs without the health and safety training that a regular employee would get.
  • They may not be fully or properly trained in the use of machinery and equipment.
  • Being unable to identify unsafe or improperly maintained workstations, buildings, or equipment can create risks for those unfamiliar with related hazards.

Other reasons for construction site injuries include:

  • Rush jobs. There may be pressure to finish a job quickly, which may result in forgoing safety protocol in favor of completing the work.
  • Most work accidents occur after lunch indicating that concentration levels are better earlier in the day. It would then make sense to switch to lower risk tasks when brains and bodies are tiring.
  • Unsafe behavior by the worker. Misusing or improperly using equipment, or not wearing appropriate safety gear for example, can lead to injuries.
Top Ten Citations

OSHA sets the standard to which employers and workers need to comply. Sadly, protocol is often ignored. The top ten OSHA standards included in citations are:

  • Scaffolding
  • Fall protection (scope, application, definitions)
  • Excavations (general requirements)
  • Ladders
  • Head protection
  • Excavations (requirements for protective systems)
  • Hazard communication
  • Fall protection (training requirements)
  • Construction (general safety and health provisions)
  • Electrical (wiring methods, design and protection)
Injury Prevention

It’s obvious that the disregard of OSHA standards directly impacts construction workers’ “fatal four” injuries. OSHA has specific advice for preventing construction accidents, but here’s also a few universal safety measures that can also be implemented.

  • Mandatory Daily Safety Meetings. Keep management and workers on the same page where safety is concerned.
  • Safety Gear. Every employee should be trained about safety gear usage – which gear for which task. Safety gear should be a requirement, not a choice. Gear should also be examined routinely to check for damage and wear.
  • High Visibility Clothing. Wearing something like orange vests with reflective material will reduce chances getting hit by vehicles and other machinery.
  • Regular Breaks. Taking breaks will help reduce accidents due to exhaustion.

 

Construction site injuries can be prevented. Be safe while you’re on the job, whether you’re in a management or labor position. It’s also good to know how you’re covered, if at all. This especially applies to contract workers. You don’t want to get injured on the job, only to discover you have no means to cover medical bills and lost wages.

If you are injured on the job and need advice, give me a call. I’d be happy to discuss your rights with you.

Move Over Laws Protect Emergency Responders

paramedic

On Sunday, a driver hit a State Patrol trooper’s car on I-5 in Tacoma as the trooper investigated an earlier crash. Luckily no one was hurt, but northbound lanes were shut down for several hours.  This is a good reminder that moving over or slowing down to keep law enforcement officers and emergencies responders free from harm is not only a great safety precaution, but the law.

“Move Over” laws were created by a South Carolina paramedic who was struck and injured at an accident scene in 1994.  South Carolina passed the first Move Over law in 1996. In 2000, a series of similar events sparked the US Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to address the need for improved standards in Emergency Scene Safety and protection for emergency workers. With the further assistance of public interest groups such as the Emergency Responder Safety Institute Move Over laws became standard across the US and Canada.

In our state, Move Over laws passed in 2007. In 2010 legislation added “Emergency Zone” laws. Emergency Zone is defined as the adjacent lanes of the roadway 200 feet (10 car lengths) before and after a stationary emergency vehicle with flashing lights. These vehicles include tow trucks, emergency assistance vehicles, or any police vehicle using emergency lights. Fines double for vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit in an Emergency Zone.

In Washington, If the highway has four or more lanes, two of which traffic is heading the same direction as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution, and if reasonable and safe, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change or moving away from the lane or shoulder occupied by the stationary responding vehicle. If the highway has less than four lanes, proceed with caution, reduce speed, and if safe and under the rules, yield the right-of-way by passing to the left at a safe distance while also yielding the right-of-way to vehicles traveling in the proper direction.  If changing lanes or moving away would be unsafe or unreasonable, proceed with caution and reduce speed.

To find information on the Move Over law in your state, visit Move Over America.

Avoiding Spring Cleaning Injuries

Warmer weather is right around the corner (we hope). It’s time to climb out of hibernation and get to spring cleaninglawn mower and tidying up our yards. This time of year also sees an increase in visits to the ER due to all of this cleaning and tidying. Most spring cleaning injuries include shoulder, neck and back problems, and general exhaustion and aches and pains. Understandably, many are gung ho to get their projects started. That is part of the problem. We tend to lead more sedentary lives during winter, and should ease into our spring cleaning and gardening rather than jumping in full force. Here are some ways to stay healthy while spring cleaning and working in the yard.

Warm Up

Get your muscles ready for the hard work in which you’re about to engage. Walk or stretch to get prepare your body for the cleaning work out.

Lawn Mowers

Sure, your lawn mower turns your overgrown mess into a well maintained yard, but it also has the potential to injury and maim.

  1. After sitting around idle for a few months, your mower will need a little maintenance. Tuning it up to get it back in working order will lower the risk of injury.
  2. Never reach under the mower deck. While this may seem obvious, it’s the very reason for many ER visits. Hands and feet can be severely injured after encountering a spinning mower blade. If needing to dislodge clogged grass, turn off the mower first.
  3. Keep children away from lawn powers. It’s not a toy. One little slip can cause severe injury or death. This is especially true with riding mowers
  4. When mowing wet grass, be cautious. People and mowers can slip on wet grass. Be extra cautious if mowing wet grass on a hill.
  5. Watch for objects that can become projectiles. Rocks, branches, toys can all be sent flying at great speed if hit by a mower blade. Risks include injuries to eyes and skin.
  6. Wear protection. Mowing presents a number of risks to the eyes. Also, it’s best to wear long sleeves and pants to protect as much skin as possible.

 

Falls

Ladders are used frequently during spring cleaning and yard maintenance. We need to reach those high spots to clean gutters, trim trees, dust door jambs and paint. Stay safe while using it.

  1. A ladder should be secured on a firm surface and against a solid wall. Falls can easily occur from ladders shifting or sinking from its original position.
  2. It’s best to have another person secure the ladder while you climb. Focus is crucial for the person spotting you on the ladder. Have them put phones and other distractions away while helping.
  3. Don’t reach too far when on a ladder. This can cause it to slip or fall. Keep your body vertical and in line with the ladder.
  4. If needed, dry the ladder and the bottom of your shoes to avoid slipping. If you’re using your ladder in wet weather, have a towel handy and continuing drying when needed.
  5. Clear or avoid potential hazards if possible. Railings, bushes, rocks and sidewalks are all probable dangers. It’s much softer landing on grass or dirt than a fence.

Tools

Many people, men especially, love using power tools for projects and yard maintenance. More power, right? Unfortunately, a variety of tools also mean a variety and array of potential injuries.

  1. Like with the mower, make sure your tools are in good working order. With electric tools, make sure the cord is intact and has no frays, exposed wires, or breaks.
  2. Know how to use the tool. Inexperience with tools is a common source of injuries.
  3. Do NOT remove or bypass safety features. They are there for a reason – your welfare.
  4. Never let children use power equipment or sharp tools.

Burning Brush

If you burn your brush, make sure to follow this advice to keep your small fire to turning into an inferno.

  1. Keep your burn pile away from other flammable objects such as hanging limbs of trees, bushes, or porches.
  2. Heed the burn ban. Ensure burning is safe by contacting your public works or fire department. They should know if it’s too dry or windy to have an outdoor fire.
  3. Poison ivy/oak/sumac are poisonous, and inhaling them can be very dangerous. Keep them out of your burn pile.
  4. Always have a plan to put the fire out just in case it gets out of control. Keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby. Also keep a phone handy in the case it DOES get out of control and you need to phone 911.
  5. Never use an accelerant like lighter fluid or gasoline. Oxygen plus accelerant can lead to a disastrous and volatile situation.

Back Injuries

Hard manual labor can be demanding on your back. Be mindful to pain and take the following advice.

  1. Use proper lifting techniques. Improper lifting techniques are a common cause of back pain and injury. Learn how to lift the right way.
    1. Bend at the knees, rather than the waist
    2. Keep your back straight.
    3. Use your legs to do the lifting work, rather than your back.
    4. Hold heavy items close to your body, and avoid twisting while holding a heavy item.
    5. If you need to place an object to the side, turn your whole body to the side.
    6. If you need to lift a very large, heavy item or move furniture, have someone help you; do not attempt to move these items on your own.
  2. Avoid bending and reaching whenever possible. Try to do as much as you can while standing upright. For spring cleaningexample, mop as much as you can rather than scrubbing on hands and knees. Use a mop or a similar device to clean the tub and shower. If you need to reach high-up areas, use a step stool or ladder; do not strain to reach it. Limiting the amount of bending and reaching you do will reduce the risk of straining back muscles.
  3. Keep the items you need nearby. When items are within arm’s reach you avoid having to bend or reach to grab them. The less you need to twist, reach, bend, or strain your back, the better.
  4. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Do the work in chunks, room to room, focusing on a couple areas per day. Take breaks and stay hydrated.

Stay unscathed while doing your spring cleaning this year. Many trips to the ER are preventable. Take your time and make the effort to keep your cleaning and yard work as safe as possible.

The Perils of Spring Break

Some college student’s spring breaks have come and gone. For some, it’s just around the corner. The safety of spring break drinkingchildren during a spring break trip is a concern for many parents. Spring breakers are basking in the freedom of vacation away from parents and there seems to be a never-ending flow of alcohol. This combination can be injurious and deadly. With four college aged grandchildren, I share that concern. Being injured in a strange place, away from home and the comfort and care of parents can be frightening for a young adult. Here is some information I found regarding spring break safety that you can pass on to your children.

Over-service of alcohol: This is a huge. When college aged students go on a spring break trip, you know alcohol will more than likely be consumed – and a lot of it. Most states have dram shop laws, which allow licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars, and liquor stores to be held liable for selling or serving alcohol to individuals who cause injuries or death as a result of their intoxication.

Social host liability: Similar to dram shop laws, if an adult hosts a parties and alcohol is consumed by minors and as a result, injury or death occur, the host of the party may be held responsible. Injuries in the case of social host and dram shop laws don’t have to be traffic related. This also includes acts of violence.

Traffic accidents: Between the last week of February and the first week of April, a considerably higher number of traffic fatalities occur in popular spring break destinations compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year. Sometimes, it’s as dangerous to walk home. With an elevated amount of negligent driving this time of year, there is also risk of getting struck by a car as a pedestrian. It’s best to leave the car behind, stay off your feet and hail a cab or use Uber or Lyft for a safe ride back to the hotel.

Alcohol related injuries: Binge drinking can come with a price. We’ve all read stories about young adults dying from alcohol poisoning. Drinking too much can also turn any normal activity into a dangerous one, such as a boating, swimming, sitting in a hot tub or standing on a balcony.  Also, binge drinking has also resulted in a number of sexual assaults.

What is the best way to protect your child? If your child is going on a spring break trip, make sure you educate them on the dangers of binge drinking. Tell them to stay in groups with people they know and never leave a party or bar with strangers. Ensure they understand the risks of drinking and driving or getting in the car with someone intoxicated. Perhaps even give them access to your Uber account for a free ride back to their hotel. The best course of action is to keep them from going on a spring break vacation. Of course, that is easier said than done.

Cold related injuries

Most individuals have the luxury of working in an office or some other type of edifice, so cold related injuries wouldcold rarely, if ever, be a concern. However, there are organizations and industries in which people work outside on a frequent or regular basis. Parks employees, road workers, construction, military, for example, have duties that involve braving the elements to earn a paycheck. While working outdoors, especially during winter weather, it’s important to take precautions to avoid injuries related to the cold.

Though apathy and lack of awareness may contribute to risk, there are other contributing factors to cold related injuries.

  • Inadequate or wet clothing
  • Consuming substances that inhibit the body’s response to cold, or that impair judgment.
  • Poor physical fitness
  • Illness, such as a cold or the flu
  • Becoming fatigued, restrained, injured, lost or entrapped out in the elements
  • Also, men have a notable higher rate of cold related injury than do women.

Damage can occur through the following conditions:

Cold stress: When the body struggles to maintain its normal temperature, the body will begin to shift blood flow from the extremities and outer skin to the chest and abdomen. Exposed skin and the extremities will cool more rapidly and increase the risk of more serious cold related injuries, such as frostbite and hypothermia. First indication is shivering.

Rewarm an individual suffering from cold stress by wrapping their body in blankets, finding shelter, and providing a radiant heat source. Encourage him or her to stay in motion to generate body heat.

Hypothermia: When the body is unable to replace heat lost to the elements, body temperature will become abnormally low.

Symptoms include:

  • Shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation

More advanced indicators may involve:

  • The lack of shivering
  • Blue skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat

In the late stages, the victim might feel so hot they may want to remove clothing. If left untreated hypothermia can result in unconsciousness and eventually death.

Helping someone with hypothermia:

  • Request immediate medical assistance.
  • Move the person to a warm, dry room or shelter
  • Remove wet clothing, including shoes and socks
  • Keep the person in a horizontal position.
  • Cover him or her with layers of blankets or towels and a vapor barrier for example a tarp or garbage bag.
  • Cover the head and neck but not the face
  • If alert, offer a warm, sweetened, nonalcoholic beverage.
  • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, the groin area and along sides of the chest.
  • Ask emergency technicians for additional rewarming instructions.

 

A person in late stage hypothermia and unconscious is in a lethal situation. Wrap him or her in blankets and quickly transport them to where they can receive medical attention. Do not attempt to rewarm them.  If they stop breathing or don’t have a pulse for the period of one minute, CPR should be started. However, don’t apply chest compressions without the direction of an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Immersion Hypothermia: This condition is when exposure to cold water results in hypothermia. Damage occurs more quickly when a person is wet as water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. Don’t let warmer water fool you. Immersion hypothermia can occur in water temperatures below 70°F.

Helping someone with this type of hypothermia is similar to nonimmersion hypothermia.

 Frostnip and Frostbite:  Frostnip is a mild freezing of the top layers of skin tissue and is reversible. Frostbite is irreversible and occurs when the skin freezes, causing ice crystals to form between cells. Toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the nose are particularly prone to frostbite. In serious cases, tissue, muscle and bone may be affected and amputation may be required.

Symptoms of Frostbite:

  • Numbness, tingling, stinging or aching,
  • Bluish or pale, waxy skin.

If caught early, recovery from frostbite is possible.  If there is no danger of freezing, mildly frozen tissue may be rewarmed and insulated until medical attention is received.

In case of frostbite:

  • Get indoors immediately.
  • Seek medical attention.
  • Remove constrictive clothing and jewelry that could impair circulation.
  • Place dry, sterile gauze between toes and fingers to absorb moisture and keep them from sticking together
  • Elevate the affected area to reduce pain and swelling

Immediate care recommendations for deep frostbite:

  • Follow guidelines for the treatment of hypothermia.
  • Do not rub or massage the affected area to warm it.
  • Do not apply snow or water, or break blisters.
  • Loosely cover and protect the area from contact.
  • Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area without professional medical assistance. For example, do not place in warm water. Rewarmed tissue sustains further damage if it refreezes.
  • Warm with radiant heat. Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator. Numb extremities can be easily burned.

Trench/Immersion Foot:  This happens when the body, to reduce heat loss, constricts blood vessels to cut down circulation in the feet. Without circulation, the skin tissue will die. This can occur in temperatures as high as 60°F if the feet are constantly wet.

Symptoms include:

  • Numbness, a tingling and/or itching sensation accompanied by,
  • Redness, swelling, leg cramps, blisters or ulcers, and bleeding under the skin.
  • In some cases, gangrene may turn feet dark purple, blue or gray.

 For immediate care:

  • Avoid walking
  • Remove footwear and socks, and dry the feet.
  • Moving to a warm, dry area and using rewarming techniques is usually only minimally effective.
  • Seek medical treatment.

Chilblains: These are damaged capillary beds (groups of small blood vessels) in the skin. They are caused by repeated exposure to temperatures just above freezing and up to as high as 60°F. Damage is permanent.

Symptoms:

  • Redness and itching—usually on cheeks, ears, fingers and toes
  • Blistering, inflammation and, in severe cases, ulceration.

Caring of chilblains:

  • Avoid scratching.
  • Slowly warm the skin.
  • Use corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling.working outdoors
  • Keep blisters and ulcers clean and covered.
  • Seek medical advice.

 How to prevent these cold related injuries:

  • Use your head:
    • Check the weather forecast and be prepared for changing conditions.
    • If working on ice, be sure it’s thick enough to safely support applied weight.
    • Take extra precautions if you are unaccustomed to the cold or exerting yourself at higher elevations.
  • Clothing:
    • Wear layers of cold weather clothing retain body heat and repel water.
    • Wool, silk and most synthetics retain their insulating properties when they are wet.
    • Pack extra clothing in case you get wet.
    • Wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes and sunscreen to protect your skin, even when it’s overcast.
    • The Army Medical Department website states to remember the acronym COLD.
      • C: Keep it Clean; O: Avoid Overheating; L: Wear clothing Loose and in layers; D: Keep clothing Dry
    • Follow the rules:
      • Stay on paths and trails and out of restricted areas.
      • Use your phones for emergencies and do not use it while engaging in a work or recreation activity.
    • Avoid fatigue:
      • Staying fit year-round is one of the best ways to manage fatigue and prevent serious injuries.
      • Follow an exercise regimen that helps build strength, stamina and flexibility.
      • Always stretch before and after your activity.
      • Take a break in a warm place if you are in pain or feel exhausted.
      • Keep your body fueled and well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water, eat nutritious meals and carry snacks to boost your energy.
      • Cold-weather workers who wear heavy, protective clothing require 10-15 percent more calories a day compared to those working in temperate climates.

Much of this advice is common sense. Don’t put yourself in peril by not being prepared for being in cold weather. This information isn’t only for those who work in the cold, but those who play in it as well – skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, etc. Whether at work or play, use your head, wear appropriate clothing and bring extra, and stay out of restricted areas and you should be able to avoid cold related injuries.

Avoiding unethical attorneys

ambulance chaserPersonal injury attorneys hate hearing phrases like “Ambulance Chasers” and don’t like being called sharks. Sadly however, there are unethical attorneys out there  and they give us all a bad name.  For instance, a New Jersey attorney and paralegal are in hot water for assisting a pair of chiropractors in the operation of a personal injury mill. The chiropractors, who were brothers, paid “runners” $1000 to obtain accident reports, find accident victims, then bring them in for treatment.  The attorney and paralegal involved paid the practicing brothers to meet with their patients and accept insurance settlements on their behalf. You can read more about this story here.

This type of solicitation is completely unethical per rules set by the American Bar Association.

Be wary if you are contacted by a personal injury attorney by the following methods:
  • In person, live telephone or real time electronic contact, unless the attorney is a family member, close friend, or you’ve had a prior professional relationship with the attorney.
  • The attorney tries to solicit a professional relationship in person, writing, or by recorded or electronic communication if you have already stated that you are not interested in their services.
  • By coercion, duress, or harassment.

Any unsolicited written, recorded or electronic communication from an attorney requesting to provide you with legal services must include “Advertising Material” on the outside of the envelope, and at the beginning and end of any recorded or electronic communication, unless, once again you are a family member, friend, or have a prior professional relationship.

Exceptions to this would be:
  1. If the attorney is offering their services Pro Bono, or, free.
  2. If you subscribe to a prepaid or group legal service plan, such as LegalShield, you’ve requested assistance on a legal matter, and the attorney is a participating attorney under your plan.
The best ways to find an attorney are through:

If you’re approached by an attorney and their tactics seem questionable, they probably are. Attorneys who will disregard ethics to gain clients are only looking out for one person’s interests – their own.

Liquor licensee risks with New Years alcohol sales

The new year begins at the end of this week, and many people will be out reveling and ringing it in. Some may stay alcoholat home, but other will have a night out on then town. Those celebrating are not the only ones that need to be careful. If you are a bar or restaurant owner, bartender, or server, be vigilant when serving alcohol. You can be liable of you serve a minor or over-serve an overtly drunk individual. Under dram shop law, bar owners, servers, and retail stores can be held liable if they sell alcohol to a minor or someone who is already drunk, and that person in turn injures or kills a third party due to driving drunk or other by other means (such as assaults).  If the wounded party provides evidence that the serving or selling of the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation.

Dram Shop law were put into place to protect the public from the irresponsible selling of alcohol to minors or discernibly intoxicated patrons.

Violations may include:
  • Selling alcohol to a minor
  • Over service of alcohol
  • Selling alcohol without checking ID
  • Selling alcohol without a license
  • Selling alcohol after hours
There are many ways to avoid becoming the defendant on the end of a dram shop claim.
  • If unsure about a patron’s age, check ID. This will prevent serving liquor to a minor.
  • Don’t be afraid to cut someone off. It’s not only a right, but a duty to stop serving a visibly intoxicated customer.drunk
  • Avoid overcrowding. Capacity is not just a number – overcrowding can lead to fights among other safety hazards.
  • Know the signs of intoxication. Not sure what they are? The State of Oregon Liquor Control Commission created a comprehensive list. View it here.
  • Don’t serve alcohol outside of legal sales hours. In Washington, liquor sales are allowed from 6 A.M. to 2 A.M. For more info, Wikipedia has a detailed list of liquor law by state.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. I’ve helped many clients with dram shop claims. Whether in a car accident or assaulted by an intoxicated individual, I’ve proven liquor licensee liability.  Err on the side of caution when serving alcohol this weekend. You might save your business, your job, or even save a life.

Happy New Year to you.

Don’t let the New Year start deadly

New Year’s Eve is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related car crashes and deaths.  According to the drinking and driving new yearNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on average, 130 deaths take place on New Year’s Eve.

Here are some tips regarding staying safe on New Years:

  • Designate a sober driver.
  • Save the number of a local cab service in your phone prior to heading out.
  • Hire a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event.
  • Take an Uber or Lyft home.
  • Stay in a hotel.

 

 

Don’t assume walking is a safe option.  New Years has the highest death rate of pedestrians than any other day of the year.  The walker is drunk in over a third of pedestrian fatalities.  Alcohol impairs your ability to walk and navigate, especially in the dark.  If you must walk:

  • As silly as it sounds, have a designated walker.
  • Drink responsibly
  • Stay on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
  • If you plan ahead of time, wear bright colored clothing and carry a flashlight to be more visible to drivers.
  • Walk in groups. This help with visibility also.

If you’re driving, it’s very simple. Don’t drink.

Have a fun, but safe New Years Eve.

Host a safe holiday office party

A holiday office party is a great way to bring people together, boost morale, and show staff how much they’re Office Christmas Partyappreciated. Be aware, if alcohol is served, some guests may overindulge. The increased opportunities to party this time of year account for a spike in binge drinking. Some party goers will undoubtedly get behind the wheel after celebrating. If drunk party guests cause a car accident on their way home, the host could be legally responsible for damages.

Are you hosting and office holiday party this year? Here are some tips to keep employees safe.

  • Send out a party memo prior. Make clear what your alcohol policy is and enforce it. Remind staff not to overindulge and not serve drinks to minors.
  • Party during the work week. People are less apt to overindulge if they must be at work the next morning.
  • Have a dry party. Employees may not like it, but they won’t be driving drunk afterward either.
  • Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. Serve soft drinks, water and mocktails as well as alcoholic drinks.
  • Serve beer and wine only. Avoid stronger alcoholic drinks.
  • Use drink tickets. Limit the number of drinks each guest is allowed.
  • Don’t host the bar. If you offer a no host bar where guests must pay for their own drinks, they may not drink as much as they would at a hosted bar.
  • Serve food. People tend to drink less at parties at which food is served because it’s hard to juggle food and a drink at the same time. Stay away from greasy, salty, and sweet foods that make people thirsty. Offer high protein and starchy foods which stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.
  • Hire a bartender for the night. A professional bartender can identify employees who drink too much and should be encouraged to card younger employees. If younger staff members will be attending the party, consider using wristbands. Issue one color for guests under 21 and one for those over 21.
  • Close the bar an hour before the party ends. Just like they do at sporting events, closing the bar an hour before the party ends will give guests time to sober up before heading home.
  • Host at a hotel. My law firm did this for years. We would rent a banquet room at a hotel, then most employees would book a room for the night instead of driving home.
  • Have numbers for taxi services on hand. Keep the number handy and visible, for instance, placing their business cards at tables.
  • Splurge on a party bus or ride vouchers. Hire a bus for the night to drive employees to and from the party, or offer to pay for their Uber or Lyft ride at the end of the night.
  • Reward designated drivers. Give DDs a gas gift card or some other kind of reward for staying sober and responsible.
  • Intervene. If a guest attempts to drink and drive, step in, call a cab, take their keys, do whatever it takes to keep them off the road. After all, if they cause an accident, the host may be held legally responsible under the social host liability law.

Have a fun and safe holiday season.

Hit by the delivery driver

fedex deliveryThis time of year seeing a UPS or Fed Ex truck on the road is a common occurrence.  Driver’s delivering packages this time of year are often under a lot of pressure. UPS expects to deliver 630 million packages between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. During the holiday season delivery drivers will be driving about 50 miles a day. With driver’s traveling that many miles, delivering that many packages, accidents are bound to happen.

Accidents happen for a variety of reasons. They can be caused by human error, outside conditions, or other factors. Some common causes of delivery truck accidents might include:

  • Failure of the driver to set the truck’s parking brake during a delivery causing it to roll;
  • Driver backing up the delivery truck after passing the desired address rather than going around the block or turning around. This can be especially dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists;
  • Speeding while driving in order to met delivery deadlines;
  • Distracted Driving – text messaging, eating, or doing something else that distracts resulting in an accident;
  • Not following truck driving guidelines and regulations
  • Drivers making sudden stops or quick left turns;
  • Failure to yield while merging in to traffic;
  • Failure to obey traffic laws;
  • Driver fatigue, intoxication, inexperience or inadequate training,
  • Failure to properly maintain vehicle;
  • Vehicle equipment failure;
  • Poorly secured cargo load;
  • Poor road or weather conditions.

If you’re not at fault, who is? It depends on the situation.

The delivery company:

In most cases claims will be filed against the negligent driver’s employer as long as the following is true:

  1. The truck driver is an employee, and
  2. The driver was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

Sometimes these companies hire independent contractors or perhaps the employee was on his or her lunch break when the accident occurred. However, that doesn’t mean the delivery company isn’t still at least partly liable for damages if the person driving its truck was negligent.

The driver:

Since the driver was the negligent party, they will more than likely need to be named party to the claim. If both the driver and employer are added to the claim, chances of completely recovering losses for medical bills, lost wages and other damages are more likely.

Independent contractors:

Some companies may hire independent contractors to do deliveries for them, and in those cases, liability may get a little sticky. Independent contractors aren’t employees of the business and they do not direct the work performed, a 3rd party contractor does that.  Independent contractors are generally solely responsible for a truck accident, unless the business owner exercised a great deal of control over the contractor’s duties.

FedEx was under the microscope last year regarding the use of independent contractors. The company claimed that all its drivers are independent contractors, but the court ruled differently in a class action lawsuit. The decision stated, “Contracts with drivers who must wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx-approved vehicles and groom themselves according to FedEx’s appearance standards to deliver packages to its customers.”FedEx tells its drivers what packages to deliver, on what days and at what times,” he said. “Although drivers may operate multiple delivery routes and hire third parties to help perform their work, they may do so only with FedEx’s consent.”

FedEx paid out $466 million to settle their claims.

If you get into a vehicle accident with a delivery truck, treat it just like you would any other kind of accident. There are certain steps you should follow.  DMV.org has posted a helpful checklist.

This information doesn’t just apply to FedEx and UPS drivers; it applies to anyone driving under the scope of their employment. Be careful on the roads this holiday season and if you’re in a car accident, give me a call, shoot me an email or fill out my online request form for a free consultation to discuss your rights. I have decades of experience with motor vehicle accidents and would be happy to help.