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Philadelphia Workers' Comp and Disability Law Blog

Construction worker dies in collapsed trench

People who work in the construction industry in Pennsylvania know that there are many inherent dangers on their job sites. Many a construction site accident has taken place that involves things like a ladder fall, a machinery accident, a scaffolding fall and more. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does publish guidelines and rules that are to be followed in order to maintain the highest level of safety on all construction sites. Sadly, however, these rules are not able to prevent all injuries.

OSHA is currently investigating the death of a 21-year-old construction worker in Pennsylvania. The man was working for a company that was a subcontractor on a job. The company was responsible for some work to a sewer line in back of a building. The victim was working in a trench approximately 11 feet deep. One report indicates that the trench may not have been properly shored up.

How can I make applying for disability less stressful?

Applying for Social Security programs can be a very stressful experience. While there isn't a way to completely remove the stress from the process, it might be possible to reduce the stress some by ensuring you are prepared for the process when you apply.

What information do I need to gather?

You need to provide your birth certificate, banking information, work history and a host of other information as part of the application process. If you are married or have minor children, you need their Social Security numbers. You will also need contact information for someone who the Social Security Administration can contact if they can't get in touch with you. Additionally, you need to know contact information for all hospitals, clinics and doctors you have seen. You need any medical records you have, names of all medications you take, your patient ID numbers and the dates on which you have been seen by your doctors.

Don't let uncertainty stop you from filing for disability

A lot of thoughts go through a person's mind when he or she is injured and becomes unable to work. Worrying about how to pay the bills and how to take care of life's necessities is often the biggest concern. Being able to afford medical care without an income, especially if your medical insurance is canceled because you aren't working, can often be difficult.

We know that you might feel as if you are in a hopeless spot. If you are expected to be unable to work for at least 12 months, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. Some people might not feel comfortable applying for SSD benefits because they have heard about people being denied for benefits. While it is true that many initial applications are denied, some of those applications are approved after the applicant appeals.

What OSHA requires for scaffolding safety

If you are among the many Pennsylvania residents who work in construction jobs or other roles that routinely feature the use of scaffolding, you know that that you face serious risks every day. Many workers’ injuries and fatal accidents happen from scaffold falls. Because of the inherent dangers, theOccupational Health and Safety Administration has developed stringent guidelines for the setup and use of scaffolds on job sites.

Employers must follow the parameters set out by OSHA as part of the requirement to provide all employees a safe work environment. Some of these include:

  • While in use, scaffolding cannot be repositioned or changed in any horizontal manner.
  • Planking is allowed to extend over the end supports but that extension must be between six and 18 inches.
  • The platforms have to overlap each other by a minimum of 12 inches. If they do not overlap, they have to be secured so as to prevent any movement.
  • Scaffolding is rated to hold up to a maximum amount of load weight based upon its intended use and must be able to hold four times that load. However, it can only be used for its intended maximum load.
  • If scaffolding is damaged in any way, it must be repaired prior to additional use.

Understanding illnesses in the workplace

Pennsylvania residents know that the government maintains regulations for on-the-job safety. While certainly guarding against a work-related accident is important, these regulations are also designed to help prevent or lower the risk of an occupational illness. From a completely physical condition to a mental illness like depression, a workplace illness can have long-term effects on a worker.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a workplace can be found to be the cause of or a contributor to an occupational disease. It can also be found to have exacerbated a previously existing condition. The involvement of a pre-existing condition does not necessarily eliminate coverage for medical expenses as a viable work-related illness. It can, however, be a factor that makes tying the two together difficult.

Federal benefits are only received by some qualifying children

Children with certain mental health conditions who have a family situation that meets specific criteria can qualify for Supplemental Security Income and other federal benefits. A study that has been released notes that many children who are likely eligible for these benefits and who fall into the low-income category aren't getting the benefits.

The report looked at the SSI program. In 2012, payments to children totaled around 20 percent of the total SSI payouts or around $9.9 billion. The study found that many children who have conditions that would make them eligible for SSI benefits don't receive them.

What Determines If An Injury Is Work-Related?

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Workers' compensation in Pennsylvania provides benefits to those who suffer any injury or illness that is the result of their employment. Another way to say this is that workers' comp covers work-related injuries and illnesses.

But what does that mean and what types of injuries and conditions are included in the definition?

Social Security Disability truths and myths

People who are unable to support themselves because of a long-term medical condition might opt to seek Social Security Disability if they have a work history. There are a lot of myths that are out there about the SSDI system. Anyone who is applying for benefits should make sure they don't believe the myths.

Contrary to popular belief, SSDI won't fully replace your income. For SSDI, a worker is given benefits based on that worker's earnings. This differs from Supplemental Security Income, which is a need-based program for people who haven't put in enough time as part of the workforce. Even if you are approved for SSDI, it won't replace 100 percent of your income.

Numerous conditions can qualify for Social Security Disability

The Social Security Blue Book lists the conditions that might qualify an adult for Social Security Disability. This list is updated periodically with new conditions. The listings are divided into 14 categories. Each category contains the information that pertains to the conditions that are included in the category.

The listings in the blue book are musculoskeletal system, special senses and speech, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, genitourinary disorders, hematological disorders, skin disorders, endocrine disorders, congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems, neurological, mental disorders, cancer and immune system disorders.

Can the Workers' Compensation Bureau Conduct Surveillance?

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When you apply for workers' compensation, you need to accurately report your injuries and provide documentation as requested. The Workers' Compensation Bureau (WCB), rightfully, wants to be sure that it is paying benefits only to those who are actually hurt, not anyone looking to take advantage of the system.

To this end, the WCB conducts investigations if suspicious circumstances arise involving someone receiving workers' comp. This naturally leads to the question, "how far can the state go to investigate those who are receiving benefits?"


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