Nearly everyone has encountered junk emails advertising supplements that provide benefits below the belt. Aside from the spam problem, these products have another downside that has officials with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) worried about the health of American consumers. Since 2011, the FDA has issued dozens of public notices related to male enhancement products that contain potentially dangerous unlisted ingredients. Two dozen warnings were issued in 2014 alone, but these products are still available. Due to their status as over-the-counter supplements, the FDA is struggling to crack down on manufacturers and distributors. This regulatory gray area also creates questions about whether a drug lawsuit lawyer can help victims who were harmed by unregulated supplements. With names like Weekend Warrior, Samurai-X, Tiger King, Herbal Vigor Quick Fix and 3 Hard Knights, it would be easy for consumers to believe that these are amusing novelty products based on native botanical remedies. No one expects these products to be laced with sildenafil, the active ingredient in Pfizer's blockbuster erectile dysfunction medication Viagra. One manufacturer even used the name Gold Vigra, which bears obvious similarities to Pfizer's trademark. The presence of so-called hidden drug ingredients concerns doctors and public health officials. The problem also worries any class action lawsuit attorney who is struggling to determine responsibility. Although the FDA regulates pharmaceuticals, it has little control over vitamins and supplements. According to Dr. Drogo K. Montague, director of the Center for Genital Urinary Reconstruction at the Cleveland Clinic, this lack of oversight is part of the problem. He stated that the FDA does not have the level of control over natural and herbal remedies that it should. Heart attack and sudden death are among the risks that Dr. Montague associates with these unregulated medications. Sildenafil is particularly dangerous for anyone with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease and anyone who takes nitrites. When these medications are combined with sildenafil, patients may experience a potentially deadly decrease in blood pressure. Deceptive marketing tactics and claims that consumers can add inches down there also affect purchasing decisions. Science shows that sildenafil improves sexual performance in men who suffer from impotence, but it cannot increase the size of a man's penis. Furthermore, these potentially dangerous products are sold by nutrition stores where consumers expect to find products that will enhance their health. The FDA has warned the public and alerted retailers, but the majority of products are still available. An investigative report published by NBC News in September 2014 found that 18 of the 20 tainted products were still available through domestic and international websites. Tiger King was available on Sears.com 10 months after the warning was issued. Sears only pulled the product, which was sold by a third-party vendor, after the NBC investigation. Another online retailer maintained that they did not receive any notifications from the FDA. An hour after speaking with NBC reporters, company directors said they received an express letter about the issue. This is not the first time that the safety of male enhancement products has been questioned. In 2014, an FDA panel issued a warning about the widespread use of testosterone replacement therapies. A series of aggressive TV commercials urged middle-aged men to consider hormonal therapy that can slow the aging process. Due to the side effects, officials warn that these treatments should only be prescribed to patients with specific ailments that impair hormone production. As more men receive treatment for erectile dysfunction, the population of patients who experience complications increases. Better regulatory oversight and medical recommendations are needed to improve patient safety and prevent the complications that lead injury victims to contact a pharmaceutical lawsuit lawyer.
An NBC News analysis reports that oil trains in the United States spilled crude oil more frequently in 2014 than they have since 1975 when such records were first collected. These mishaps fall under the FELA railroad accident laws that were established in 1908 under President Harrison, and they entitle railroad workers who are injured to higher compensation than other workers' compensation laws because their jobs are inherently more dangerous. These spills caused some $5 million in damages and lost over 57,000 gallons of crude oil. They resulted in polluted groundwater in Pennsylvania, a massive fireball in Virginia and a destroyed building in Pennsylvania. By volume, more oil was spilled in 2013. During that year, two major derailments in North Dakota and Alabama lost more than 1.4 million gallons, which exceeded the previous 40 years combined. However, data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) revealed that 2014 had a record number of so-called "unintentional releases" with 141 accidents. That dwarfed the national yearly average of 25 spills between 1975 and 2012. These accidents sent many a railway employee seeking representation from a railroad worker injury lawyer. Most of the accidents in 2014 happened when the trains were thundering down the network of train tracks that wander through residential neighborhoods and near many downtown areas. Among those incidents were three complete derailments and seven accidents that were deemed serious by FELA attorneys since they caused an evacuation, a fire or a spill exceeding 120 gallons. That was five more serious incidents than were recorded in 2013. Larry Mann, who authored the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970, said that there are more severe accidents waiting to occur. He predicted in 1991 that a freight train accident would wipe out a community, and his prediction came true in 2013. He said that without drastic changes, the same thing is likely to occur again. The catastrophe to which Mann referred was the Lac-Mégantic disaster, which happened close to the Maine border in Quebec. In that tragedy, a 72-car oil train detonated and destroyed the majority of the town. Nearly 50 people were killed in the explosion when a train rolled downhill into the city. After the horrific accident, American regulators had several emergency meetings. They announced their intention to implement sweeping new safeguards regulating train speed, tank car design, crew size and the routes taken by oil bearing trains. None of these new rules have been finalized at this point. The Department of Transportation (DOT) did not meet a Congressional deadline of January 15 for implementing the new rules governing tank cars despite decades of punctures, leaks and catastrophic failures. The new rules are still being written by the PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). When asked about the delay in implementing new statutes, the PHMSA could not explain it. Instead, they chose to defend the safety record of oil-bearing trains. PHMSA spokesperson Susan Lagana said that more crude oil was being delivered throughout the country than ever, and the PHMSA is aggressively setting new standards intended to keep communities safe. She said that in 2013, more than 87,000 tank cars hauled crude oil and only 141 "releases" had been reported. The total amount released in those accidents did not even equal the capacity of two tankers. The FRA did not comment on the situation. Instead, it provided data suggesting that railroads are improving their delivery of hazardous materials. In the period between 2004 and 2014, the frequency of collisions and derailments dropped from 31 to 13, which was a 50 percent decline.
Doing the right thing did not go well for a former DuPont Co. employee who has been embroiled in a whistleblower case for the past three years. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana is set to wrap up this potentially groundbreaking jury trial in late January 2015. This lawsuit was filed by Jeff Simoneaux, a long-time DuPont employee, who alleges he was wrongfully terminated after reporting ongoing leaks of the carcinogen sulfur trioxide at the company's acid regeneration plant in Burnside, Louisiana. This comes after four DuPont employees died in a chemical plant accident that occurred on November 14, 2014, in La Porte, Texas. This case has the potential to set a new precedent because Simoneaux chose to file under the False Claims Act rather than the traditional Whistleblower Protection Act. Designed to combat contract fraud and corporate conspiracy, the False Claims Act is an old statute that has been used in innovative ways since environmental laws were strengthened in 2010. As a whistleblower, the claimant's recovery would normally be limited to lost earnings and reinstatement. By using the False Claims Act, the whistleblower can receive a portion of any environmental fines levied by the government. In this case, potential fines under the Toxic Substance Control Act are assessed at $25,000 per day for the duration of the violation. Although the U.S. Department of Justice has opted not to exercise its right to support his case, Simoneaux's attorneys have continued on their own, which is unusual in so-called qui tam cases. Prior to his termination, Simoneaux worked for DuPont for 22 years and headed the plant's Safety, Health and Environment Committee for the last 14 years. He maintains that his decision to make multiple internal reports and to contact outside agencies was in keeping with federal laws and DuPont's own policies. To support his claim, Simoneaux has provided video footage and photos of toxic sulfur clouds emanating from the facility. The jury has also reviewed secret audio recordings of the plant manager warning employees not to report the emissions. The plaintiff's claim is backed up by testimony from another senior employee who was fired after seeking medical treatment for eye and throat irritation that is consistent with sulfuric acid exposure. Downplaying the issue, DuPont attorney Monique Weiner said that there are always visible emissions coming from chemical plants in southern Louisiana. She added that preparing onions for gumbo releases sulfuric acid, but no one has died from chopping them. This quagmire of forms, internal records and environmental laws stems from unrepaired cracks in the plant's heat exchanger and pressure vessels. Although DuPont did order a replacement from China and could have welded the holes, they opted to plug the voids with plastic tubing and duct tape while continuing regular operations. Any Houston industrial accident lawyer knows that reporting potential violations is an important part of maintaining a safe workplace. However, in this case, the focus has been on whether the levels were reportable. DuPont contends that emissions were minimal, yet the plaintiff argues that DuPont concealed the problem to avoid paying federal fines. This is not the first time that DuPont has violated environmental laws. In 2007, the company paid $4 million in fines for emission violations at four plants, including the one in Louisiana. Although DuPont sells its safety practices to other companies and has been praised for its industry-leading environmental controls, it has a poor track record. Since 2007, there have been at least 34 toxic releases at the company's 30 U.S. plants. Although it is important to protect the environment, it is even more important to protect the lives of employees who could be injured in a Louisiana or Houston petrochemical plant accident.
Premonitions are forewarnings that provide alerts that something bad is likely to happen. They are common occurrences, and experts think that they may have helped cavemen survive in perilous situations. Knowledge of potential hazards can provide a warning to take action to evade danger as well. An oilfield worker in a gas patch in North Dakota knew that it was dangerous to weld a tanker that contained hydrocarbons, and he expressed his concern to his employer. Unfortunately, his anticipation of possible industrial explosions did not save his life. Staying Aware of Hazards on the Job Working in the oil and gas industry exposes workers to potential health hazards that can cause permanent damage or even death. The accident in North Dakota was preventable, according to reporting by Al Jazeera America. A Houston Chemical Plant Explosion cost four workers their lives when they investigated a chemical leak. Companies that fail to ensure the safety of workers may cause victims to file a lawsuit to get compensation for injuries. The U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites these common causes of injury in the oil and gas industry: Hydrogen Sulfide Highly toxic and flammable, hydrosulfuric acid derives from decomposing organic material such as crude petroleum and natural gas. Loss of consciousness or death can result from exposure to excessive concentrations. Heavier than air, hydrogen sulfide accumulates where workers mine natural gas and petroleum in poorly ventilated areas. A Houston Refinery Explosion Attorney can help victims understand worker safety laws and provide legal representation in court. Silica Breathing crystalline silica is a cause of a disabling and non-reversible condition in the lungs that is sometimes fatal. Described as a human carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program and carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, silica is associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, kidney disease and problems with the immune system. Diesel Particulate Matter Engines that power drilling site equipment can expose workers to diesel particulate matter. Diesel exhaust contains a mix of particulates and gases that occur during the combustion of fuel. Workers who breathe diesel exhaust may risk health hazards that include lung cancer and respiratory disease. Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) Workers who handle drilling mud or pipe may risk exposure of NORM that escapes from gas and oil formations. Welding or cutting pipe has the potential to put workers in danger from radioactive materials. Moving equipment from one site to another, reusing it, recycling it and disposing of it may pose hazards. Hazardous Chemicals Byproducts of drilling for gas and oil during hydraulic fracturing can expose workers to dangerous health hazards. Burns can occur from contact with caustic substances, and toxic vapors can damage the lungs when inhaled. Workers in the gas and oil industry need the protection of responsible employers who respect safety regulations. Noise, Fatigue and Temperature Extremes Less dangerous than exposure to radioactive materials or hazardous chemicals, diesel particulate, silica or hydrogen sulfide, noise levels and temperature extremes can make working conditions on a job site hazardous. Working long shifts on successive days can result in fatigue and inattention on the job. Regulations from OSHA that govern worker safety help ensure protection from injury when they are enforced by employers. Inspectors can visit any job site to check for violations, and employers are liable for penalties for failure to enforce the law. However, many job sites in the gas and oil industry are in remote locations that may not receive regular inspections. Personal injury attorneys who understand the industry and the hazards that workers face can provide professional representation for victims to protect their rights.
On January 15, 2015, five employees of a nearby oil field died as a result of being involved in a multiple vehicle crash in South Texas. The five men ranged from 21 to 65 years old, and they are the latest victims of a shockingly large increase in traffic fatalities in the Eagle Ford Shale area. Experts have linked the escalating amount of accidents to the fracking and drilling operations that are becoming increasingly common throughout this portion of the state. Tragically, an increase in profits for some companies has left many families mourning their loved ones. A Texas truck accident lawyer can help them receive some financial restitution, but this could never make up for the loss of a life. What Caused This Deadly Accident? According to media reports, the catalyst for the four vehicle pileup was an oil tanker that lost control after hitting a pickup truck. The oil tanker fell onto its side at approximately 7 a.m. on U.S. 83, and two other vehicles slammed into it. The collision caused both of those vehicles to burst into flames, and five men who had been traveling together in a van were all pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck that was initially hit by the oil tanker survived the incident, but he is currently at the San Antonio hospital receiving treatment for burns that cover 80 percent of his body. In a situation like this one, it is common for everyone involved to contact a local lawyer. For example, if a similar accident took place in Houston, any injured individuals would want to secure the assistance of a Houston personal injury attorney. Taking this step is the best way to recover medical expenses and any applicable lost wages. Why Are Accidents Increasing in South Texas? As previously mentioned, experts believe that the increasingly popular drilling and fracking industries are instrumental in the rise in deadly accidents within the area that is known as Eagle Ford Shale. Statistics back up this viewpoint, and it is shocking to discover just how many fatalities have occurred in the area. To make matters even worse, most of these accidents have involved the deaths of three or more people. In 2010, there were 72 deaths in Eagle Ford Shale that happened during an accident that met this criterion. By 2013, this number had ballooned to 148. In many cases, truck drivers are involved in these fatal crashes, and this makes sense when you consider how many oil tankers and other large vehicles are needed to transport materials. Truck drivers are more likely to survive a deadly accident, but this leaves them needing to take steps to protect themselves legally. Lawyers throughout the state have become busier due to these incidents, including those who work exclusively as a Houston truck accident attorney. What is Being Done to Improve Traffic Safety in Eagle Ford Shale? The Texas Department of Transportation and local law enforcement officials are taking steps to minimize the amount of accidents that occur in the Eagle Ford Shale area. They have determined that U.S. 83 in Dimmitt and northern Webb counties has experienced the biggest upswing in traffic due to nearby drilling and fracking operations. This knowledge makes it easier to have a stronger police presence in place, and it also enabled the state to approve the improvement of road additions that could reduce accidents. U.S. 83 and parts of U.S. 277 now have short-term passing lanes in place, and officials believe that this will minimize issues that are caused by slow-moving vehicles. In the meantime, it is important for anyone who is driving through the Eagle Ford Shale area to be extra cautious.
Government agencies regulate the industry, but a Houston chemical plant accident can still occur. Executives with chemical plants may follow the agencies' rules and regulations, but a Houston wrongful death in an industrial accident can happen. This may mean that there is negligence on the part of the government agency, the chemical plant or both. It also means that those affected need to hire a Houston industrial accident attorney to file a claim against those responsible for the accident. An Example of One Company's Failure DuPont's chemical plant in La Porte, Texas experienced a leak on November 15, 2014. As a result of this chemical leak, four plant employees lost their lives. On that day at 4 a.m., the plant began to leak methyl mercaptan into the air, and it took rescue workers two hours to contain the leak. Although people could smell the chemical in the air as far away as Sugar Land, the air was not deemed to be dangerous to humans. Previous Leaks The November 15th incident is not the first time that the plant leaked methyl mercaptan. Research into this matter showed that this plant has been leaking methyl mercaptan for several years. The Failure to Report The day of the accident, 23,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan escaped into the air. This number is much higher than the amount that has been released in previous leaks over the past six years, but authorities still considered past leaks to be "significant." They were serious enough to be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. The problem is that no one from DuPont ever did. The Consequences of DuPont's Failure to Act The sobering truth is that maintenance workers who have been employed at the plant since the year 2008 may have been inhaling methyl mercaptan the entire time. As a matter of fact, officials with OSHA determined that the levels of methyl mercaptan present in the air would have surpassed the level that the agency deems to be unsafe for humans. Sam Mannan of Texas A&M University's Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center weighed in on this issue. According to Mannan, if DuPont's officials had shared their findings with him and his agency about their toxic leaks, those who died would possibly be alive today. He stated that if he had been given the chance, he may have been able to identify where the leak was coming from and fix it before the situation became deadly. The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality's Failure There seems to have been another failure in this matter. Officials with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality or TCEQ issued dozens of citations to the DuPont chemical plant for several emissions violations. In turn, the agency's protocol is to notify government agencies like OSHA when officials encounter a problem that is outside of their control. Unfortunately, no government agency received notification of DuPont's violations, so OSHA was unaware that a visit to the premises would be necessary. The last time the agency performed an inspection of the DuPont chemical plant was in 2007. How the Safety Measures Failed DuPont employees filed maintenance emission reports with the TCEQ that demonstrated the fact that the company had a problem with leaks. In response, TCEQ officials were supposed to monitor the plant more often. Also, the company would have been required to enact additional safety measures and provide their workers with more training. However, DuPont did not initiate these or any other protective measures while the leaks were occurring. Although DuPont spent $18 million upgrading their equipment, clogs within the system remained. This led industrial hygienist Peter Dooley to state that DuPont did not do enough to keep its employees safe.
An oil drilling accident that occurred in Midland County, Texas, claimed the life of Ronnie Lynn May and left his young son without a father. May was attempting to rescue one of his colleagues, Mariano Pruneda, whose leg had become pinned under a section of pipe on the drilling rig operated by Helmerich & Payne, Inc. During May's efforts to help Pruneda, another portion of the rig fell and crushed May. Both men were transported to the Midland Memorial Hospital; May was pronounced dead later that afternoon. Helmerich & Payne has been inspected by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more than 50 times since 2010 and has racked up at least 25 violations during that time. For families who have lost loved ones or workers who have been injured on the job, consulting with an oil rig accident attorney can provide added help in determining the cause of these tragic events and in obtaining fair compensation for their losses. A Growing Problem According to figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal accidents are on the rise in the oil industry. At least 545 oilfield workers lost their lives between 2008 and 2012; Texas workers accounted for 216 of the reported deaths in the industry. OSHA records indicate that safety violations on the part of oil companies play a role in many of the fatal accidents in Texas and across the country. According to consumer protection organization Texas Watch, at least 11 deaths could have been prevented if oil companies complied with all applicable safety regulations in the workplace. Unfortunately, as oil drilling and exploration continues to expand, the risks to workers continue to increase as well. A Pattern of Neglect and Negligence An article published in the Houston Chronicle on February 9, 2013, spotlighted the dangers to workers in the oil industry. While the overall number of fatalities in the workplace has declined significantly in recent years, oil worker deaths are actually increasing. On average, nearly 40 workers die on the job each year in the Texas oil industry. These figures do not include the number of workers who die in traffic accidents related to their jobs; OSHA does not maintain statistics on these types of accidents. OSHA records indicate that 78 percent of the accidents the agency investigated involved safety violations that could have contributed to the fatalities or injuries suffered by workers. Lack of Federal Oversight While offshore drilling operations are highly regulated, the U.S. government has yet to implement a comprehensive set of safety standards for the onshore drilling industry. This has led to a cavalier approach by many onshore oil drilling companies to protecting their workers. As of January 1, 2015, OSHA will require added recordkeeping for all employers regarding serious injuries and fatalities on the job. This is expected to provide an added incentive for employers in implementing and enforcing best practices on the job and providing workers with a safer working environment. For the families of workers like Ronnie Lynn May, however, these new requirements are too little and too late. Working with a qualified Houston wrongful death lawyer can help families achieve a sense of closure on these tragic accidents. Houston work injury attorneys can provide support for victims in navigating the legal process and working toward a fair settlement for their injuries or losses. If the oil company has demonstrated negligence or failed to provide a safe working environment for employees, pursuing legal action can also allow families and victims to bring financial pressure to bear against the responsible parties. This can promote changes in the oil industry that may save lives and prevent further accidents in the future.
Tracy Morgan is known to millions for his stand-up comedy work and his appearances on television hits like "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live." On June 7, 2014, however, Morgan attracted publicity for a far different reason when the limo in which he was riding was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer truck. Morgan's friend and colleague, James McNair, was killed in the accident. Morgan himself sustained major injuries in the crash and is still undergoing rehabilitation for severe brain trauma. The actor-comedian is currently working with an 18 wheeler accident lawyer to pursue action against Walmart, the employer of the driver regarded as responsible for the accident. A Long Road to Recovery Morgan suffered a broken nose, fractured femur and broken ribs as a result of the crash. The injuries to his leg required surgery and continue to cause difficulty in walking. The brain trauma Morgan sustained in the accident has required months of rehabilitative work on cognitive functions, speech and motor skills. Tracy Morgan was recently spotted in a rare public appearance using a walker to navigate the sidewalks near his New Jersey residence. Jeffrey Millea and Ardie Fuqua were also critically injured in the crash and are facing similar difficulties in their recoveries. Legal Actions Pending The driver of the tractor-trailer, Kevin Roper, has already appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas on four counts of assault by auto and one count of vehicular manslaughter arising from the accident. Prosecutors allege that Roper had not slept in over 24 hours when the crash occurred and that this led to his failure to see and react to traffic stopped ahead. Morgan has also filed a lawsuit against Walmart on behalf of himself, Millea and Fuqua to recover damages. The legal action alleges that Walmart was negligent in managing drive time restrictions and did not take into consideration the distance Roper was required to travel to arrive at his job in Smyrna, Delaware, from his home in Jonesboro, Georgia. This long commute effectively extended the time Roper was required to drive for Walmart and led to driver fatigue that played a major role in the accident, according to the truck accident attorney retained by Morgan. Catastrophic Injuries Not Uncommon The size and weight of 18 wheeler vehicles can pose a serious threat to smaller cars and trucks on the road. The injuries sustained by Morgan, Millea and Fuqua are not unusual for these types of accidents. A similar incident occurred in Pasadena, Texas, on October 27, 2014, when an 18-wheeler rear-ended and rolled over a small sedan on Highway 225. Rescue workers spent hours in cutting the woman's body from the mangled vehicle; traffic was shut down on a large stretch of Highway 225 for six hours. For survivors of these terrifying accidents, traumatic brain injuries, loss of limbs and paralysis are common. In many cases, driver fatigue and poorly maintained equipment are cited as contributing factors for accidents involving tractor-trailers. Morgan's experience is far from atypical. His celebrity status, however, may lead to much-needed scrutiny of the dangers posed by these large trucks to other drivers on the road. For those who have been injured or who have lost family members to 18 wheeler accidents, consulting with qualified Texas truck accident lawyers can provide a way to hold companies responsible for their negligence and can ensure fair compensation for ongoing medical expenses and recovery costs. Attorneys who specialize in this field of law can offer insights into the most likely contributing factors and can represent the interests of victims both in and out of court. Applying this type of financial pressure is often the only way in which families and victims can achieve closure on these devastating accidents and hold trucking companies accountable for the actions of their drivers.
Powerful painkillers provide humane treatment for people suffering from chronic pain and terminal conditions, but doctors increasingly prescribe these dangerous and addictive compounds for routine pain management. Deaths associated with pain medications have been steadily increasing for decades. In fact, prescription painkillers now cause more deaths than illegal street drugs, and more than a million emergency-room visits each year involve patients who use pharmaceuticals for non-medical reasons. If someone is killed or injured because of pain medication, hiring an injury from prescription drugs lawyer might prove the best course for sorting through these complex issues that involve challenging doctors and legally prescribed medications. Physicians and drug companies are often guilty of negligence, but proving this kind of case takes specialized skills. Drug Overdose Statistics Indicate a Growing Epidemic The pharmaceutical culture serves many legitimate medical needs, but statistics show that the cures are often worse than the original complaints. About 114 people die each day due to prescription drug overdoses. Patients often experience depression and other debilitating side effects from their drug therapies. In 2012, drug overdosing was the leading cause of accidental deaths, and more than half were attributable to pharmaceutical drugs. These statistics include the following disturbing facts:
A subsidiary of Caterpillar, Inc. is facing numerous charges after allegedly unnecessarily replacing train parts and disposing of them in the ocean off of Long Beach, California. Progress Rail Services provides inspection and repair services to some of the most prominent railroad companies in the world. If the allegations prove to be true, they would show that the company engaged in activities that could directly or indirectly lead to FELA railroad accidents around the country. Needless to say, the resulting federal grand jury investigation has put the company in the hot seat and has caused it to lose many lucrative contracts. The repercussions for the railroad industry are sure to be considerable. According to reports, including an in-depth article by the Wall Street Journal, employees at Progress Rail on Terminal Island in California were pressured to produce billable repair work based on the inspections they performed. While repairs were not necessarily, employees were rewarded with more pay; they were given preferential treatment and often received special recognition in the form of "employee of the month" awards and the like. In response to the pressure, federal prosecutors allege, workers often deliberately broke parts that were in good working order. Subsequently, many parts were then thrown into the ocean, which is in direct violation of numerous environmental laws. FELA attorneys' ears perked up upon hearing the news. After all, Progressive Rail is responsible for inspecting, maintaining and repairing trains and railroad equipment. The work they perform has a direct impact on the overall safety of that equipment and those trains. Interestingly enough, a few other employees from the company brought forth similar allegations in Florida a few years ago, and those claims were subsequently settled out of court. The results of the suits that were filed have been sealed and are not available to the general public. For decades, the majority of railroad companies handled their own inspections and repairs. In an effort to cut costs and to maximize profits, many have taken to outsourcing the work to companies like Progress Rail Services. Since this practice has become widespread, incidences of derailments and other hazards have skyrocketed. Many major railroad companies, including BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific, have sued over these types of incidents in recent years. The situation regarding Progressive Rail Services is a whole other matter entirely but could go a long way toward explaining why safety has seemingly fallen by the wayside in the industry. According to the report, Progressive Rail Services employees gouged train wheels, smashed brakes, yanked handles loose and otherwise caused damage to trains and equipment to ensure they had billable repair work to perform. They also engaged in "green repairs," which means to replace parts that are working perfectly fine. Companies like Progressive are subject to random audits and inspections, so employees also had to find ways to get rid of the parts and other evidence. At least over on Terminal Island, they allegedly threw many train parts into the ocean to escape detection. Why does this case matter so much? Primarily because companies like Union Pacific rely on third parties to ensure that their trains and equipment are in good, safe working order. The employees who handle such equipment every day are at increased risk of injury and death when these kinds of underhanded practices occur. Railroad companies' top concern may be keeping costs low, but train accident lawyers' top priority is protecting the rights and safety of railroad employees. Therefore, attorneys around the country are watching the case closely. It remains unclear what the outcome will be, but no matter how it plays out, these allegations will hopefully force major changes in the way railroad contractors conduct business.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2009, numerous workplace injuries went unreported by employers as a matter of routine. The report indicated that as many as two-thirds of all injuries on the job may not be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some of the reasons cited for these failures include fear of increased workers compensation costs and reducing the likelihood of receiving government contracts. The oil industry is especially prone to these lapses in reporting. For oilfield employees who have been denied workers compensation or have been otherwise penalized for injuries sustained on the job, consulting with a Houston industrial accident lawyer can often provide valuable assistance in managing medical costs and achieving a fair settlement. The Human Cost of Non-Reporting A recent article in the Houston Chronicle highlights the human costs associated with failure to report injuries in the oil industry. In September 2011, Mitch McNamee was injured after a fall on Nabors Rig 245, an oil rig in Alaska. The accident was witnessed by several co-workers and supervisors at the time, but it was never recorded in his personnel file or in the drilling logs maintained by his employer, Nabors Alaska Drilling. He received no medical treatment or evaluation until much later. McNamee continued to perform his duties for a few days until he began to show signs of disorientation and loss of memory. He was then transferred to another company location and was later terminated by Nabors. He did not file a formal report until two weeks after the accident and did not apply for workers compensation until much later. These factors may have affected the denial of McNamee's claim. Today, Mitch McNamee is still unable to return to work and continues to suffer from the effects of this serious injury. OSHA Expanding Reporting Requirements Beginning on January 1, 2015, OSHA will begin requiring added reporting from all employers regarding work-related fatalities and injuries. Under the previous requirements, employers were required to report any work-related hospitalizations of three or more staff members as well as any fatalities related to work. The new rules require employers to provide added information regarding work-related injuries, including the following: