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South Carolina Personal Injury & Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Avoiding accidents involving slow drivers

While most South Carolina drivers likely know the dangers of driving too fast, they may not be aware that it can also be dangerous to drive too slow. This is because driving too slowly for the general flow of traffic can cause confusion, prevent other drivers from being able to make safe predictions and ultimately lead to a car accident.

While any driver can drive too slowly, there are four general groups of drivers that other motorists should be on the lookout for. For example, distracted drivers, including those who are texting and driving, often unknowingly slow down when they are not paying attention to the road. Tourists may also drive slowly if they are not familiar with the surrounding area or if something catches their eye. Newly licensed drivers may also drive too slowly, especially if they are not yet confident in their driving skills. Finally, seniors and older individuals may drive more slowly due to biological changes and aging.

Area, time, distance all impact drive safety

All drives are not created equal when it comes to the statistical likelihood of a car accident. Fatal motor vehicle crashes are most likely near the home of the driver, with many South Carolina crashes happening within 25 miles of home. Part of the reason is that most driving happens within a short distance of home, but there are other factors at play as well.

Drivers are less likely to wear seat belts, for example, if they are driving just a short distance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports driving just a short distance as one of the main reasons drivers give for not buckling up. Driving on familiar roads can also lead to a lack of alertness on the part of the driver. It's important not to fall into the comfort zone trap while behind the whee. Accidents on familiar roads are often caused by new elements like other drivers, vehicle equipment failure or crossing animals.

Potential financial ramifications of chemical exposure

South Carolina residents who work in plastic manufacturing plants might be exposed to dyes, lubricants and flame retardants among other liquids. They may also be exposed to acetone or other chemicals that are used in machining or to add gloss to 3D printed parts. There are many dangers that workers may face such as explosions, exposure to vapors and skin issues if they make contact with these materials.

Ideally, companies will take the approach that anything that could go wrong will and create a safety plan based on that theory. As a best practice, companies should opt for sealed and contained systems for transferring chemicals as opposed to using manual transfer methods. If chemicals and their fumes cannot be contained, it could cost a lot of money to both treat workers and clean the resulting damage. It may also cost time or money to shut down a facility after an accident or to submit to government inspections.

Mitigating risk posed by hot work

Defined as an activity that produces sparks, flames or heat, hot work carries inherent risks that could lead to injury or death in some situations. South Carolina employees who are required to perform hot work may want to be aware of some of the most significant hazards and take steps to mitigate the possibility of adverse results.

A broad category, hot work includes any task that creates heat through friction, and one of the biggest risks associated with hot work is the potential for fire. Failure to take the appropriate precautions when engaged in jobs that involve cutting, grinding, welding, drilling, soldering and brazing could have potentially catastrophic results. Even the seemingly innocuous task of thawing pipes could ultimately result in a fatality.

Focusing on hazard reduction in the workplace

Some workplaces in South Carolina and throughout the country may shift to a greater focus on preventing serious injuries and fatalities, also known as SIF programs. These programs move the focus away from the traditional approach of waiting for an accident to occur and then addressing the problem. They recognize that near-miss accidents can be warnings of more serious injuries or fatalities to come, and addressing the conditions that led to those near-misses can help prevent the accidents. A near-miss incident such as a worker nearly falling from heights might not be the type of event that must be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but it can provide critical information about workplace safety.

One key in identifying potential hazards is to get workers involved. Trust is critical because workers need to be able to talk about what kind of protection and support they need and know that they will not be penalized for pointing out problems.

Some drivers are turning off their collision avoidance systems

Not all drivers in South Carolina appreciate the warning beeps of their collision avoidance systems. A researcher at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suspects that some drivers become annoyed by the sounds meant to alert them to lane drifting or objects in their blind spots. Her comparison of studies about the influence of vehicle warning technology identified large discrepancies in crash reduction rates.

Two studies from 2015 gathered data about U.S. trucking fleets and Volvo passenger cars in Sweden with collision avoidance technology. Lane departure warning systems appeared to reduce crash rates in both studies by about 50 percent.

Workplace Injuries related to cured-in-place pipe repairs

While the cured-in-place repair process is a conventional procedure to fix water pipes in South Carolina and across the U.S., a new study says that it may not be safe for workers. Authors of the study, which was conducted through Purdue University, claim that the process should get re-evaluated due to its potential to release of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.

The system requires workers to insert a resin-impregnated fabric tube into a damaged pipe. The repair must be cured via hot water, steam or ultraviolet light to make a new plastic pipe. However, researchers determined that the chemical plumes that result from the process, once believed to be steam, actually contain organic vapors and compounds.

Safety tips help composting workers avoid injury

Composting workers in South Carolina and across the United States have some safety tips to consider on the job. The Solid Waste Association of North America has published a safety guide for composting operations employees as part of their "Five to Stay Alive" program, which seeks to address some common workplace dangers.

Because workers in composting use heavy machinery and engage in serious physical labor, they face the possibility of serious injuries in case of a lax or insufficient safety environment. The SWANA campaign provides posters, flyers and other materials that provide advice and common safety tips for composting workers.

Construction site accidents can be deadly

Construction workers in South Carolina may be at a greater risk of dying or being injured in an accident in which they are struck by an object, equipment or vehicle than workers in other industries. These were the findings of the Center for Construction Research and Training. The organization looked at injuries and deaths from 2011 to 2015 and found that there were in excess of 800 fatalities in accidents involving a worker being struck. Moreover, construction workers were almost two times more likely to be injured in such an accident than workers across all other industries put together.

The risks were highest for workers 65 and older. Just over half of all workers killed were hit by equipment and objects, and the others were hit by vehicles. Most workers hit by vehicles were in work zones, and the most fatalities were among highway maintenance workers.

Most truck accidents are caused by car drivers

Media outlets in South Carolina and around the country often run stories about tractor-trailer accidents when truck driver drowsiness, intoxication or distraction have been cited by law enforcement as factors, but data from the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that these reports may sometimes be misleading. According to the agency, automobile drivers are responsible for causing about 70 percent of the accidents involving large commercial vehicles, and almost 60 percent of those killed in truck crashes are passengers in cars or SUVs that strike tractor-trailers either in the rear or head-on.

Passenger vehicle drivers are generally cautious when in close proximity to tractor-trailers, but impatience and frustration can mount when slow-moving trucks are holding up traffic. This can prompt motorists to follow too closely, occupy blind spots or make unwise passing maneuvers, and excessive speed and driver distraction are also persistent problems. More than eight out of 10 of the road users killed in truck accidents in 2015 lost their lives on interstates, freeways or major roads according to the DOT, and 29 percent of them lost their lives when the passenger vehicle they were traveling in crossed the center line.

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