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Cereal Killer: Monsanto Put RoundUp in My Kid’s Cheerios?

Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2019 at 5:24 pm by Williams Hart   

Imagine yourself on a Saturday afternoon: you’re at the grocery store, pushing a heavily loaded shopping cart through a maze of long, crowded aisles. You’re anticipating a lengthy receipt. 

Leaving behind a treacherous wall of cookies and other delicious treats, you turn the corner, kids trailing behind you, and at once realize you’ve entered another minefield of questionable choices: the cereal aisle. You try to move quickly but escape proves futile. 

Suddenly, a yellow, family-sized box appears. “Please?” the small voice whines. Sigh.

“Sure”.

 What’s the harm in another week’s worth of Cheerios, anyway?

Poison for Breakfast: Are Those Cheerios Contaminated?

It turns out, there may actually be significant harm in that box on its way to your pantry. 

Since the breakfast cereal was introduced to the American diet in 1863, children and adults alike have enjoyed an estimated 160 bowls, or 10 lbs of cereal, per person–annually. With a U.S. population of nearly 300-million people today, that’s 1.35 billion kilograms a year. That’s a lot of cereal. 

Until recently, devoted consumers have remained blissfully unaware of what may be hiding in those beloved boxes of sugary goodness.

The Study

Independent laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group in 2018, and again in June 2019, revealed that heavy doses of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular herbicide RoundUp®️, have been found in many food products specifically marketed towards children. 

Unsafe levels of glyphosate were detected in all but two of 45 samples of oat-based food products distributed by two major companies, Quaker Oats and General Mills. Among those products, breakfast cereals consistently tested highest for glyphosate contamination. 

 

Product Type Variety Glyphosate (ppb)
Oat breakfast cereal Honey Nut Cheerios 147
Oat breakfast cereal Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal 729
Oat breakfast cereal Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios 400
Oat breakfast cereal Cheerios Oat Crunch Cinnamon 283
Oat breakfast cereal Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch 833
Oat breakfast cereal Multi Grain Cheerios 216
Oat breakfast cereal Nature Valley Baked Oat Bites 389

(Source)

While the companies say there is no reason for concern, tests showed that 26 of the 28 samples revealed amounts of glyphosate higher than EWG’s safe upper limits. 

In another analysis, exposure to glyphosate increased the overall risk for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma by 41%.

“All of the meta-analyses conducted to date, including our own, consistently report the same key finding: exposure to GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicides) are associated with an increased risk of NHL,” the authors wrote in a study published in the journal of Mutation Research

“It is very troubling that cereals children like to eat contain glyphosate,” said Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist and author of the report. “Parents shouldn’t worry about whether feeding their children healthy oat foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer. The government must take steps to protect our most vulnerable populations.” 

Representatives from General Mills and Kelloggs have denied that the levels of glyphosate found in their cereals are above safe limits. 

Who is the Environmental Working Group?

Founded in 1993 by Ken Cook, EWG is an American activist group and nonprofit organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, and corporate accountability. Their mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Their key issues include consumer products, cosmetics, farming, food, toxics, and children’s health. 

The Cancer Round-Up

RoundUp is an extremely popular herbicide, originally produced by agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto, and its widespread use has led to understandable concern following increased awareness about its possible carcinogenic effects.

RoundUp: Helpful Herbicide or Dangerous Carcinogen?

RoundUp and other herbicides with the active ingredient glyphosate are probably the most commonly used weed killers among farmers, foresters, gardeners, and biologists trying to control weeds. Since Roundup’s introduction in 1974 more than 9.4 million tons of Roundup have been sprayed into crops, fields, and backyards that pose a direct health risk to people across the country.

According to a report by The Guardian, “US farmers spray about 200m pounds of Roundup each year on their crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. It can also be used on produce such as spinach and almonds.”

How does it work?

Glyphosate-based herbicides all work on the same biochemical principle — they inhibit a specific enzyme that plants need in order to grow. The specific enzyme is called EPSP synthase. Without that enzyme, plants are unable to produce other proteins essential to growth, so they yellow and die over the course of several days or weeks. A majority of plants use this same enzyme, so almost all plants succumb to RoundUp.

Glyphosate is used mostly as a weedkiller on genetically modified corn and soybeans. But it is also sprayed on oats just before harvest as a drying agent, or desiccant. It kills the crop, drying it out so it can be harvested sooner, which increases the likelihood that glyphosate ends up in foods children love to eat.

Cancer Connection

The failure to warn consumers of the risk involved with RoundUp has continued in spite of the International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) listing glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen as early as 2015.  Recent court proceedings and newly published research have highlighted the possible link between Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and heavy use of RoundUp among those hard-at-work in the agricultural industry.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson filed a lawsuit against Monsanto in 2016 alleging that being exposed to the Roundup herbicide while he worked as a groundskeeper caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This was a first of its kind case which led to a unanimous verdict that Roundup’s glyphosate-based weedkiller was responsible for Johnson’s cancer.  The trial took over 8 weeks and resulted in a unanimous jury verdict that Monsanto acted with malice and should be punished for its product. 

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson testified weeks earlier. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.” 

Jurors awarded Johnson $289 million. Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial because Johnson’s health is declining and doctors said he didn’t have long to live. Dying plaintiffs in California can be granted expedited trials. 

Since then, more than 18,000 people have filed lawsuits across the country against Monsanto and are expected to go to trial in the coming years.

What is a Genetically Modified Organism? 

Monsanto’s reputation as a controversial agricultural biotechnology corporation holds a dominant position in both herbicides and genetically modified organisms, specifically seeds.. Identified more closely than any other company with the effort to introduce genetically modified organisms into the food supply, Monsanto has been the target of ongoing campaigns for more than 20 years.

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

A Threat to Wildlife 

Because RoundUp is used heavily in the agricultural industry, new studies have also been conducted to examine its effect on wildlife. Recent research has suggested that Roundup compromises the immune systems of bees contributing to a critical decline in bee populations. Roundup also caused bee larva to grow more slowly and die more frequently than normal which is thought to be caused by a disruption in the beneficial gut bacteria within bees’ stomachs.  

“We all know that glyphosate is an antibiotic. It’s very toxic to bacteria. It’s even patented as an antibiotic,” says Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But very few researchers have actually dived into this issue. The good thing is, that’s starting to change.” 

Researchers Nancy Moran, Erick Motta and Kasie Raymann suggest their findings are evidence that glyphosate might be contributing to colony collapse disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. This phenomenon has been wreaking havoc on both native and farmed honey bees for over a decade.

Cereal Offenders: Monsanto’s Controversial History

While the case against RoundUp is a concerning one, it is certainly not the first, or last, public grievance brought to Monsanto’s rap sheet. From its mistreatment of farmers, to morally questionable government lobbying, manufacturing of Agent Orange, and environmental and workplace safety issues–Monsanto’s disreputable past exudes suspicion and outright mistrust by the public. And rightfully so. 

Beginnings

Founded in 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri by pharmaceutical industry veteran John Francis Queeny, Monsanto began as a chemical company whose first products were commodity food additives, such as the artificial sweetener saccharin, caffeine and vanillin. 

Over a Century of White Collar Crime

Monsanto expanded rapidly throughout the 20th century, making a name for itself as, according to many advocacy groups, “the most evil corporation in the world”.

  • 1940. Monsanto produces polystyrene, the main component in Styrofoam, which creates large amounts of hazardous waste during manufacture.
  • 1945. Monsanto begins manufacturing toxic agricultural chemicals like 2,4-D, later used in Agent Orange. It also produces DDT.
  • 1956. The U.S. Navy refuses to purchase Monsanto’s hydraulic fluid after safety tests associate it with “definite liver damage.”
  • 1976. Monsanto introduces RoundUp, a synthetic chemical herbicide whose overuse soon creates glyphosate-resistant superweeds.
  • 1984. Monsanto pays millions to Vietnam War veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange.
  • 1990s. Monsanto takes 5th among U.S. corporations in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory.
  • 1994. Monsanto introduces recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production, despite numerous adverse health concerns.
  • 1996. Monsanto introduces Roundup Ready soybeans, the company’s first genetically modified, pesticide-promoting seed, and the first GE insect-resistant cotton, which produces its own insecticide. Scientists find that aspartame, an artificial sweetener developed by a Monsanto subsidiary, could pose health risks to consumers.
  • 1998. Canadian government scientists accuse Monsanto of bribe attempts in obtaining approval of the drug hormone rBGH in Canada.
  • 2002. Monsanto is fined $1.5 million for bribing Indonesian officials to skip an environmental assessment of its GE cotton.
  • 2006. A judge rules that the USDA violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to conduct even minimal investigation into whether GE “pharma crops” could harm endangered species.

 

This is just a brief summary of Monsanto’s list of unjust acts against public health.

David vs. Monsanto: Legal Battles against Farmers

Perhaps one of Monsanto’s most widely publicized controversies was its mistreatment of both domestic and international farmers.

When Monsanto introduced its first genetically modified seeds in the 1990s, it forced farmers to sign contracts prohibiting them from continuing the traditional practice of saving some of the seeds from a harvest for planting the following season. To make sure farmers were compelled to purchase a new supply of the GMO seeds for every season, the company made sure it had the right to inspect and monitor the fields of its customers. It also brought lawsuits against farmers it claimed violated the company’s policies.

This controversy was highlighted in a 2011 documentary, David vs. Monsanto.

Bayer Purchase

Monsanto was purchased in 2018 by Bayer, one of the largest multinational pharmaceutical companies in the world. 

Since then, Bayer‘s stock prices have been hit hard by the recent legal rulings regarding the RoundUp cancer lawsuits. Bayer’s total market value has plummeted to less than the price it paid for Monsanto when they purchased the company last year. People took to the streets to demonstrate against acquiring Monsanto to begin with. “Bayer has choked on Monsanto,” said Ingo Speich of German lender Deka bank. “The company risks being taken over and dismantled.” Mark Tuemmler of investors’ federation DSW said 2018 was “a nightmare for shareholders.”

As of August 9th, 2019, there have been rumors that Bayer is reportedly offering a settlement of $8 billion  for the 18,000 claims filed against the RoundUp manufacturer. That’s in the ballpark of half of $1 million for each claim filed.


Everybody, (Don’t) Panic: How to Prepare for a Hurricane the Right Way

Posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 at 2:18 pm by Williams Hart   

Texas: A History of Storms

About 100 storms and tropical disturbances develop in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico each year. Some of these turn into tropical storms, and on average, two each year become hurricanes that make landfall in the U.S.

Residents along the 367 miles of Texas coastline are no stranger to the life-threatening storms that often emerge from the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Beginning the 1st of June through the end of November, coastal homeowners are at risk of a barrage of hazards brought on by hurricanes, including high winds, heavy rainfall, flooding, and storm surges. 

While hurricanes and other major storms affect the entire country, Texas has stood witness to some of the deadliest and costliest natural disasters formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Between 1851 and 2016, 289 hurricanes affected the continental U.S. Of these, 63 made landfall in Texas.

Hurricane Facts

Hurricanes are giant, spiraling tropical storms that can strike land at wind speeds of over 160mph and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day.

In the formative stages of a hurricane, heat is drawn from warm, moist ocean air and released through condensation of water vapor in thunderstorms. It is at that point that a tropical depression is established. If the sustained velocity of its winds exceed 39 mph, it becomes a tropical storm. At this stage it is given a name and is considered a threat. When the winds exceed 74 mph, the system becomes a hurricane.

Hurricanes are, essentially, colossal heat engines that generate energy on a staggering scale. 

Categories

Hurricanes are categorized from 1 to 5 by the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, a rating system based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed.

  • Category 1 – Winds 74 to 95mph (Minor damage)
    • Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. 
  • Category 2 – Winds 96 to 110mph (Extensive damage)
    • Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage.
  • Category 3 – Winds 111 to 129mph (Devastating damage)
    • Devastating damage will occur.
  • Category 4 – Winds 130 to 156mph (Catastrophic damage)
    • Catastrophic damage will occur.
  • Category 5 – Winds 157 mpg or higher (Absolute worst)
    • Catastrophic damage will occur.

Hurricane Watch and Warning Terms

Although not every tropical storm fully develops into a hurricane, it is important to recognize the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning.

A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within a specified area. Hurricane warnings are issued 36-hours in advance of the expected onset of high-speed winds in order to allow more time for important storm preparation activities. 

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within a specified area. These are typically issued 48-hours in advance of the expected onset of high-speed winds. This is when you should prepare your home and review your evacuation plan in case a hurricane warning is issued.

Hurricane Safety Tips

Even if you’ve experienced a hurricane in the past, you may not be aware of how to fully prepare for one. Whether you’re a longtime resident or new to the area, it’s important to know what steps to take to ensure your and your family’s safety–from pre-landfall to post-landfall.  

Before a Hurricane

If a hurricane watch or warning is issued in your specific area, complete preparation is essential for minimizing damage to your property and securing the safety of your household. 

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan (see section below).
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes (see section below) and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property (see section below).
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.

During a Hurricane

  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades.
  • If sheltering during high winds, go to a FEMA safe room, ICC 500 storm shelter, or a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding.
  • If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water.
  • Listen for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY and away from windows.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.

Winds, Storm Surges & Flooding

Storm surge is water from the ocean that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around a hurricane. Storm surge is historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States. It undermines roads and foundations when it erodes material out from underneath them.

Storm surge is fast and can produce extreme coastal and inland flooding. When hurricanes cause storm surge, over 20 feet of water can be produced and pushed towards the shore and several miles inland destroying property and endangering lives in its path.  

Water weighs about 1,700 pounds per cubic yard, so battering waves from surge can easily demolish buildings and cause massive destruction along the coast.

Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. 

Flood Insurance Facts

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floods—including inland flooding, flash floods and flooding from seasonal storms—occur in every region of the United States. In fact, 90 percent of all natural disasters in the U.S. involve some type of flooding. 

Flood Insurance Basics

  • Homeowners and renters insurance does not typically cover flood damage.
  • More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones.
  • Flood insurance can pay regardless of whether or not there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
  • Disaster assistance comes in two forms: a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, which must be paid back with interest, or a FEMA disaster grant, which is about $5,000 on average per household.  By comparison, the average flood insurance claim is nearly $30,000 and does not have to be repaid.

National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program was established by Congress in 1968 for two reasons: to share the risk of flood losses through insurance and to reduce flood damages by restricting floodplain development. The program enables property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance protection from the government against losses from flooding.

For more information on how to buy or renew flood insurance, understanding your risk, how to reduce your cost, or how to file a claim, visit https://www.floodsmart.gov/

Myths vs. Facts

MYTH: I receive flood insurance through my homeowner’s insurance.
FACT: Homeowner insurance policies do not normally cover flood damage. You can purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent or company.
MYTH: My homeowner’s insurance agent knows whether I need flood insurance.
FACT: Not necessarily. Not all insurance agents are familiar with communities that participate in NFIP or floodplain hazards. Better to check with an agent who is knowledgeable about NFIP and can explain the benefits so your home and property will be covered should a flood occur.
MYTH: Only those who live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) can buy flood insurance.
FACT: Anyone can buy flood insurance if you live in a participating community, which must enforce floodplain ordinances and building requirements that meet or exceed FEMA guidelines. If your community does not participate in the NFIP, you can make a request for it to do so through your mayor, city council or county commissioner’s office.
MYTH: It doesn’t make sense to pay for flood insurance if you are in a low-risk flood zone.
FACT: People outside of high-risk flood zones file more than 20 percent of all NFIP claims and receive one-third of federal disaster assistance for flooding. Flooding can occur anywhere. In fact, it is the number one natural disaster in the United States.
MYTH: You can’t buy flood insurance right before or during a flood.
FACT: You can purchase flood insurance at any time, however, there is usually a 30-day waiting period after the premium payment before the policy becomes effective.
MYTH: Flood insurance is only available for homeowners.
FACT: Most people who live in NFIP participating communities, including renters, condo owners and businesses, are eligible to purchase flood insurance.

Beware of Predatory Contractors

It happens after every disaster: Scammers swing into action to try to make a quick buck off storm victims when they’re the most vulnerable. 

It’s important to recognize predatory behavior after a natural disaster. Be wary of non-local contractors who practice high pressure sales tactics such as unannounced visits and pushing you to sign a contract before a damage inspection with a formal estimate. If someone does show up at your door uninvited after your home has sustained damage, be prepared to ask for an office number and address. Also, check to see if they belong to your local chamber of commerce. 

For a complete list of tips to help you carefully select a contractor, visit this article by the Better Business Bureau.

Preparedness Checklist

Below you will find a series of checklists that will help you better prepare for an oncoming hurricane. 

Create and Practice a Family Emergency Plan

Be sure to practice your plan on a regular basis so that you know what to do in an emergency. Practicing your plan also allows you to find problems with the plan in a safe environment. Then, be sure to update your plan so it’s as good as it can be if a disaster strikes.

  • Make sure everyone knows important phone numbers and that children know their parents’ full names.
  • Keep a list of contacts by the phone and in your emergency kit. Be sure to have a charger for your mobile phone.
  • Make sure you identify a safe room in your home to ride out a storm.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home and find two ways out of each room.
  • Learn basic safety skills such as CPR, first aid, and use of the fire extinguishers.
  • Decide on a meeting place outside of your home, and one just outside of your neighborhood, in case you cannot return to your home.
  • Make a plan about what you will do if you need to evacuate with your pets.
  • Keep a copy of your family emergency plan in your supply kit or another safe, waterproof place where you can access it in the event of a disaster.
  • If you live in an evacuation Zip-Zone (see below), plan an evacuation route ahead of time.
  • Know where to go to get information on shelters and services following an emergency. Visit houstonemergency.org or call 3-1-1 to find the nearest shelter.
  • Keep some cash on hand in a safe place. Remember that ATMs require power, and may not be available after a disaster.

Prepare your Home

  • Install safety equipment such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Also test them regularly. Residents of the City of Houston can request a free smoke detector (including detectors for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing) by visiting houstonfire.org and click “Smoke Alarms”.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows with permanent storm shutters, for best protection, or custom cut plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. 
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Know how and when to turn off water and electricity at the primary connections.
  • Post emergency phone numbers by all home telephones. Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 for fire, police, or an ambulance.
  • Keep a list of your possessions. Keep important papers in a safe deposit box or other safe and dry location.
  • Replace stored water every three months and food every six months.
  • Service and/or replace your fire extinguishers according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Build an Emergency Kit

Building a family emergency kit is crucial. During emergencies, you may need to be on your own for a period of time. You may want to consider three types of kits: A Go-Bag, a Shelter-in-Place Kit, and a Pet Disaster Supply Kit.

Go-bag 

A Go-Bag is one that you would take with you in case of an evacuation. Go-Bags should be easily portable like a backpack or suitcase on wheels. Store it somewhere you can easily get to it. 

  • Copies of your important papers in a waterproof bag.
  • Extra set of car and house keys.
  • External mobile phone battery pack or solar charger. Some hand-crank flashlights will also include a phone charger.
  • Bottled water and snacks such as energy or granola bars.
  • First-aid supplies, flashlight, and whistle.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (with extra batteries, if needed).
  • A list of the medications each member of your family needs and at least a 14-day supply of each medication.
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet cleansing wipes, and other items needed for personal sanitation.
  • Contact and meeting place information for your family and a map of your local area.
  • A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.
  • Rain ponchos.
  • Escape Tool for your car.

Shelter-in-Place Kit

Keep a Shelter-in-Place Kit for when you need to shelter at home for an extended period. 

  • Water (one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation—up to a 7-day supply).
  • Non-perishable food (up to a 7-day supply per person).
  • Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries) or hand-crank radio/NOAA radio.
  • Weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Filter mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, soap, disinfectant, and plastic ties for persona sanitation.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (water and electric).
  • Manual can opener if your kit contains canned food.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place (see pages 35-36).
  • Plastic tarps for emergency roof repair.
  • Items for unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula, or diapers.
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils.
  • Cash and change. (ATMs may not be available after an emergency, especially if the power goes out.)
  • Paper towels.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Rain gear, sturdy shoes, long pants, and gloves.
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, birth certificates, passports, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.

Pet Disaster Supply Kit

If a family is going to evacuate, the family’s pet should be evacuated too. Ensure your pet has proper identification and consider having them micro-chipped. This will make it much easier to reunite them with you if you are separated during an emergency. Identify ahead of time a place you can evacuate with your pet. Consider boarding facilities, veterinarians or your designated evacuation location who shelter pets during emergencies. 

  • Pet medications
  • Important documents, including vaccination records
  • Pet-friendly soap
  • First-aid supplies
  • Strong leashes and collar/harness with ID tags
  • Carriers to transport pets safely
  • Current photos of pets (in case pets get lost)
  • Pet food
  • Drinking water (one gallon per pet per day, for up to seven days)
  • Bowls
  • Litter/pan
  • Muzzle
  • Manual can opener
  • Toys

Develop a Support System for People with Disabilities 

In addition to the preparedness steps that have already been mentioned, if you or a loved one have access or functional needs, you should develop a support system made up of individuals who can help during a disaster. 

Make a list of any accommodations, specialized equipment, or other necessities that may be required. This list might include: 

  • Adaptive equipment for dressing, showering, or eating
  • Equipment that runs on electricity
  • Special vehicle or transportation requirements 
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications 

Pre-Register for Assistance at TexasStear.org

People who may need extra assistance in a disaster should register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) by visiting texasstear.org or dialing 2-1-1. STEAR may be used by those who require transportation assistance in an evacuation, as well as by individuals who may require other assistance during a disaster. In the event your area is subject to an evacuation order or other disaster, your local Office of Emergency Management may contact you to schedule transportation or other services. For additional information on hurricane preparedness for people with disabilities or those with access and functional needs, visit togetheragainsttheweather.org.

Stay Connected

Staying connected in an emergency situation is imperative to the crucial decision-making involved in remaining safe. Many metropolitan areas have emergency notification systems in place that deliver critical information to residents regarding current conditions, expected impacts, and protective actions to help you adjust your disaster plans as situations change.

Wireless emergency alerts

Authorized government agencies can send short text alerts directly to your phone based on your current location. These alerts happen automatically and do not require you to sign up. To manage these alerts, check your phone’s messenger settings. Learn more at ready.gov/alerts.

  • AlertHouston – Staying informed through emergency notifications helps make sure you know what to expect in an emergency, and what to do to stay safe. AlertHouston offers emergency alerts through email, text message, a mobile app, and social media. Sign up at houstonemergency.org.
  • CitizensNet – Want to know more about disaster preparedness and receive news and information from city departments that are of interest to you? Sign up for CitizensNet at houstontx.gov/citizensnet.

Apps

  • American Red Cross Shelter App – Contains emergency shelter information. Updated only when shelters are opened.
  • The Ready App – Emergency preparedness information for the Houston region.
  • Houston 3-1-1 App – Report non-emergency situations to Houston 3-1-1 from your phone.

You can find these apps and more at houstonemergency.org.

Get Involved

Communities that plan together, and work together before a disaster, are better prepared to help each other during a disaster. Get involved in your community throughout the year, meet your neighbors, and make connections. 

CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

CERT classes are available in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools to train individuals in basic disaster response skills, such as fire suppression, search and rescue operations, and medical care. This awareness-level course helps residents take a more active role in emergency preparedness by providing skills that allow neighbors to come together and assist one another until local agencies can step in. 

For more information on the training program (a series of eight three-hour sessions) and scheduled classes, visit houstoncert.org.

Neighborhood Ready Houston Program

The Ready Houston program offers a 90-minute training class called “Neighborhood Ready,” which is facilitated by you or a member of your community. The course covers topics such as determining neighborhood readiness, understanding disaster impact, making a plan, and keeping yourself and your neighbors informed.

Meeting Kit

Ready Houston will send you a meeting kit free of charge that includes a facilitator guide providing tips and suggestions to help make the presentation unique to you and your group. The kit also includes a number of items to help you effectively conduct your training session including a DVD, discussion guides, notepads, pens and safety lights. 
To obtain your kit, please visit readyhoustontx.gov/neighborhood-ready/training-and-resources. 

National Night Out

Throughout Texas, the first Tuesday in October is when neighbors come together to introduce themselves to one another, get to know the local law enforcement officers and emergency responders who patrol their area, and help make their communities safer. To learn more about National Night Out in your community, visit houstonpolice.org, contact your local law enforcement agency, or check your neighborhood’s page on Nextdoor.com in late September

Evacuation Information

Hurricane evacuations are based on the damage expected from various storms, and may be local or regional. Evacuations are based on several factors, and are designed to get residents out of harm’s way quickly. 

Zip-zones

Several regions of the Texas Gulf Coast have been designated as Hurricane Evacuation Zip-Zones. Zip-zones are large-scale evacuation corridors that are implemented when disaster strikes. You can view an interactive map of Houston-area Zip-zones here.

Traffic management plans

In the event of high vehicle traffic during an evacuation, local government officials may decide to implement traffic management plans. 

Contraflow

Contraflow involves reversing the flow of traffic on highways so that all traffic flows out. During an evacuation, look for signs indicating whether or not the contraflow plans are in effect. Most evacuations will not require contraflow, and not all contraflow options may be used.

Additional lanes, called “Evaculanes”, are sometimes used during an evacuation and are marked with a white hurricane symbol on a blue circle.

After the Storm

If you were affected by a hurricane, it’s important to pay close attention to the information the city provides. One of the best ways to stay up-to-date is to visit the city’s Disaster Recovery website, houstonrecovers.org.

Returning home

If you evacuated, you should only return home once official instructions are given to do so. After a storm occurs, it’s important to assess the damage your home or business has sustained as quickly as possible. Do not enter areas that are potentially unsafe. This includes damaged buildings, areas with downed power lines or with heavy debris. Do not attempt to walk or swim through floodwaters.

Utilities

Utilities, such as power lines or natural gas service, may have been damaged during the disaster. If you see downed power lines or suspect a gas leak, leave the area. Once you are in a safe location, call 9-1-1 and your utility company to report the emergency

Generator safety

If you choose to use a generator during or after a disaster, make sure it’s always used outside. Do not use chains or locks to secure a generator or connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Do not store gasoline inside your home or near water filters. Always have a carbon monoxide detector when using a generator.

Managing debris

Following a large-scale emergency, the city may implement a program to collect debris in neighborhoods. 
Safely Handling and Separating Debris
Remember that debris, especially after flooding incidents, can be hazardous to your health or safety.  You should always:

  • Wear gloves and eye protection when removing construction materials such as drywall, wood siding, and large furniture.
  • Wear long-pants and sturdy shoes in debris-riddled areas to prevent injury.
  • Separate debri into five categories: vegetative, construction/demolition, appliances, electronics, and household hazardous waste.

Documenting Damage
Before putting debris out for collection, you should do the following:

  • Contact your insurance company to file a claim
  • Document your property damage(s) by taking photographs
  • Contact 311 to notify the city of your damage(s). This will help the city identify areas that will need debris collection.
  • If a federal disaster declaration has been issued, call FEMA (800-621-3362), or apply online at disasterassistance.gov to a Disaster Assistance Claim.

Water

While most disasters don’t impact fresh water service, your drinking water can occasionally be impacted by a disaster. If fresh water service has or may have been impacted:

  • Stay informed and listen to local officials for information on your local water service.
  • If your water quality is impacted, listen to the directions given on what to do.
  • Some water issues can be addressed by purifying water as described below, or by using the seven-day supply of water you have in your Shelter-in-Place Kit.
  • Certain types of contamination make water unsafe even after purification. In this case, you MUST use your supply of bottled water.
  • Remember that water that is unsafe for drinking should not be used to brush teeth, wash dishes, or for mixing infant formula.

Public Health Threats

Mosquito-borne diseases

If your home or property has flooded in the event of a hurricane, it may be an ideal place for mosquitoes to live and spread dangerous diseases such as West Nile and Zika. As a result, you should drain areas of standing water in and around your home, dress in long sleeves and pants, and use mosquito spray that contains DEET. 

Hazardous materials incidents

Hazardous materials are substances, which because of their chemical, physical, or biological nature, pose a potential risk to life, health, and property if they are released. Houston has witnessed chemical plant fires in the past following the impact of a hurricane. If such an incident occurs, local officials may order a shelter-in-place

Hurricane Resources

For additional information on hurricane facts, preparation, and recovery, please visit the links below.


How to Prepare for a Personal Injury Lawsuit the Right Way

Posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2019 at 11:01 am by Williams Hart   

So you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party, and you’ve decided to file a personal injury claim.

Good work! You have taken action and made the first step towards receiving justice. You’re a responsible, hardworking individual and you aren’t backing down from those who must answer for your losses. You’re ready to armor-up! It’s now time to put your trust into the hands of the right attorney to fight for you. 

This guide will walk you through the process of a personal injury lawsuit, including how to choose the right attorney, types of personal injury cases, frequently asked questions, a timeline of the process, and a checklist to help prepare you for the journey ahead.

Types of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is designed to protect you, the plaintiff, if you or your property sustains injury or damage because of another individual’s or agency’s actions or failure to act. In a successful personal injury lawsuit, the defendant who caused the injury compensates the plaintiff. 

While automobile accidents make up the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits, the basis of a claim can range anywhere from a simple slip or fall to a multi-victim refinery explosion. The following is a comprehensive list of typical cases that can lead to: loss of income, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and costly medical treatment.

  • ♦ Wrongful Death
  • ♦ Truck Accidents
  • ♦ Explosion Accidents
  • ♦ Burn Injuries
  • ♦ Oilfield Accidents
  • ♦ Refinery Plant Accidents
  • ♦ Pipeline Accidents
  • ♦ Jones Act Maritime Lawyer
  • ♦ Offshore Platform Rig Accidents
  • ♦ Aviation Accidents
  • ♦ Bus Accidents
  • ♦ Railroad Train Accidents
  • ♦ Crane Accident
  • ♦ Car Accidents
  • ♦ Workplace Accidents

FAQ: Litigation Process

First thing’s first: your case may take awhile to resolve. While small cases can often be resolved quickly, even medium-sized cases can take several years to resolve from the date of your injury to the day you receive compensation for your losses. From start to finish, your attorney will champion your case until the last gavel falls–just remember, he or she will have no control over how long the proceedings will last.

Civil litigation can be a frustrating and confusing process. Pleadings, motions, hearings, interrogatories, discovery, document requests, continuances, adjournments, negotiations, deadlines–the journey from your attorney’s office to the last gavel is an unfamiliar one to most people. Understandably, you have some serious questions.

  • What is the statute of limitations on filing a personal injury claim?

Knowing how a statute of limitations works is imperative, as its rules and procedures are complex and the consequences for failing to follow them can be harsh. You must act quickly. Additionally, court rulings can determine the way the statutes apply–and even make them unenforceable. The number of years you have to file a personal injury claim varies from state to state and can range between one year to six years. You can view a chart of all 50 states with their respective number of years here

  • What happens when a lawsuit is filed?

Once a lawsuit is filed, you become the plaintiff in the case and the person or entity responsible for your injuries becomes the defendant. Attorneys for each side typically begin gathering facts through exchange of documents, interrogatories (written questions), or depositions (questions that are asked in person and answered under oath). This process is called discovery. After discovery, many cases get settled before trial. Only a small percentage of personal injury actions ever go to trial.

  • What’s the difference between negligence, strict liability, and intentional wrongs?

You may be wondering if there is any other basis for personal injury other than negligence. The answer: yes. Strict liability refers to the culpability of designers and manufacturers for injuries resulting in defective products. In this case, the victim does not have to establish negligence–rather, they will need to show that the product was designed or manufactured in a way that made it unreasonably dangerous when used as intended. Intentional wrongs, while rare, refer to cases in which an individual or entity purposefully causes bodily injury to you.

  • What kind of compensation is awarded for personal injury victims?

If a personal injury lawsuit is won by the plaintiff, a judge or jury will award them what the court refers to as damages. In other words: money. The amount awarded can include compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, future wage losses, physical pain and suffering, or disability that resulted from the injury.

  • Will the responsible party be punished?

This is understandably a concern that most personal injury plaintiffs will want to address. It is important to understand the difference between civil cases and criminal cases. Civil cases, such as personal injury lawsuits, do not involve jail sentences or stiff fines for the defendant. These penalties only apply to criminal cases.

  • What does it mean to settle a case?

This is where you must practice thoughtful consideration towards the outcome of your lawsuit. Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dropping your action against the person who injured you. This will absolve the defendant of any further liability. Your attorney will provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful–after which, the decision to accept a settlement offer is entirely yours.

 

How to Choose your Personal Injury Attorney the Right Way

Choosing the right attorney to represent your personal injury claim is essential to securing not only the justice you deserve, but financial compensation for your losses. It’s important to put your trust into a legal representative with experience in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

What to Look for in Your Legal Representative

♦  A Proven Record of Winning

When you look for an attorney, the first thing you should see is a history of winning results. An attorney’s work should speak for itself. At the end of the day you want an attorney that knows how to do their job, namely, winning cases.

♦  Financial Compensation

Securing adequate financial compensation requires a competent lawyer. You need to find an attorney who is experienced in setting the cost of damages and liability at a reasonable rate. Many people underestimate the amount of money they are owed while other attorneys might promise more than they can deliver. Look for an attorney who has won similar amounts for other clients and who is educated how much money cases like yours have won.

♦  Up-Front

You need an attorney who will be upfront about their fees and the prospective outcome of the case. Look for an attorney who takes the time to determine the likelihood of your case winning and who can give you some idea of what the legal proceedings will entail. When suing for damages and liability you should expect to pay your attorney part of the money you win, rather than any sort of prior fee. A plaintiff-side personal injury attorney who expects payment before winning should always be a major red flag.

♦  Powerful Negotiator

A good attorney will know when it is best to negotiate and when it is time to go to court. After a verdict, further negotiations on payouts may also be necessary. This is where having a skilled and thorough negotiator is key. Unfortunately, you could be looking at a long appeal process or a reduced payout that is barely worth the time spent filing the lawsuit. You need an attorney who can set reasonable expectations and who knows how to win a case through to the final payout.

♦  Formidable

Look for an attorney who has a reputation in their legal community. It isn’t enough to have a nice attorney, look for someone who is willing to take your case to trial if that is what needs to happen for your best outcome. Be aware of attorneys who do not have the skill or confidence to stop negotiations and go to court. You want to be sure that you hire someone who is experienced in the courtroom and who has won against other formidable lawyers.

♦  Compassionate

What drives a good lawyer to do their work? At the end of the day money isn’t enough to provide the care and honesty you need out of an attorney. It isn’t enough to merely enjoy winning, you need an attorney who has a sense of justice and drive to fight for what’s right. Defending individuals and families who have been harmed through negligence and greed should matter more than making the same money defending the corporations who cause these tragedies. Finding an attorney with a passion to fight for you is a competitive edge that should not be dismissed.

♦  Respect & Fairness

While your attorney should be an expert in their field, there is no excuse for an attorney who doesn’t respect their clients. Keeping you informed and making sure you understand your options is invaluable and the mark of a good attorney. Hire an attorney who will set fair expectations not someone who will promise the moon. Be wary of attorneys who promise something that is too good to be true.

♦  Transparency & Communication

Look for an attorney who is transparent about the legal process. It’s okay to not understand the entire process, that’s why you are hiring a qualified lawyer. You should be able to ask your attorney about the legal process and to get straightforward answers explaining your next steps. Your attorney should keep you informed and aware of the process every step of the way.

♦  Connections & Resources

When deciding on a law firm, look for a firm with the connections to be successful. Deciding between a large or small firm can be challenging. While it might seem like a good idea to go with a smaller firm and receive more one-on-one support, some aspects of trial can benefit from a larger legal team. Major corporations and even some smaller businesses may spend thousands of dollars on “expert” witnesses to attack your case. These experts can be tough to match without the resources to hire your own experts or researchers to prove those other experts wrong. Othertimes, companies may intentionally swamp your lawyer with paperwork to slow the legal process down. Having a firm with a team capable of handling these complicated and labor intensive processes is critical. Look for a firm with the connections to industry leaders and competent staff to tackle whatever your opposition throws at you.

♦  Experience

Having an experienced attorney with an equally experienced legal team encapsulates all of these critical components. An attorney who has a proven record of success in negotiations and the courtroom is of the utmost importance. You want an attorney who has a reputation of success and integrity handling complex cases while also taking the time to answer any questions you might have.

Preparation Checklist

The better prepared you are for your personal injury lawsuit, the more likely you are to receive maximum compensation as quickly as possible. Before the initial meeting with your personal injury lawyer, it’s important to gather all information applicable to your claim in order for him or her to fully investigate your case. 

Information

  • Name and address of ambulance service
  • Name and address of the emergency room where you were initially taken
  • Dates you were admitted to the emergency room and the hospital
  • Names and business addresses of all doctors who have examined you
  • Names and addresses of chiropractors you have consulted
  • Names of all people who were involved in the accident
  • Names and addresses of witnesses to the accident
  • Dates you missed work because of the accident
  • Name and telephone number of each insurance adjuster you have talked to
  • List of people you have talked to about the accident or your injuries

Documents

  • Accident report
  • Copies of any written statements
  • Your automobile insurance policy if you were injured in a car accident along with the “declarations” page or “coverage certificate” that sets forth what kinds of coverage you have purchased and what the policy limits are
  • Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy, along with the declarations page or coverage certificate
  • Medical or disability insurance policy or coverage certificate
  • Other policies, including major medical, hospitalization, veterans insurance
  • All correspondence you have received from any insurer about the accident or your injuries
  • Medical bills
  • Receipts for things you have had to buy because of your injury
  • Receipts for things you have had to fix because of the accident

For a printable copy of this checklist, please click here.


What to Expect: A Timeline

The litigation process of a personal injury claim is a lengthy and complex one, and most people do not have experience with such legal proceedings. Understandably, you and your family are anxious to pursue the justice you deserve. While the majority of personal injury claims end in a settlement before it can go to trial, it is important to familiarize yourself with what to expect–from your first meeting with an attorney to the conclusion of a trial. 

 

  • ♦  Meeting with a Personal Injury Attorney

 

The first step after receiving medical treatment for your injury is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney for a professional consultation as to whether you have a valid claim. Most personal injury lawyers do not charge a consultation fee, so beware of those who do. It’s important that you bring any supporting documents for your case, including medical records, police reports, photos, and notes you’ve taken. Be prepared to answer many questions, as your attorney will need to get a full understanding of your case.

 

  • ♦  Evaluating and Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

 

Selecting the right attorney for your claim can mean the difference between winning and losing your case, so it’s important to consider your legal representative carefully. Be sure to look for the top 10 attorney qualities, listed above, that will prove valuable in your case. Keep in mind during your initial meeting, a good attorney will never make promises about how much money you can expect to receive. Once you have made your decision, you will be asked to sign a client contract that specifies the exact attorney fee. Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis, meaning there is no fee unless your case is successful. 

 

  • ♦  Investigating Your Case

 

To fully understand how you were injured and the extent of your injuries, damages, and costs, your attorney will conduct a full investigation into your case. He or she will contact the insurance company directly and possibly the attorney representing the party responsible for your injuries. Your attorney will keep you up-to-date on any negotiations and developments throughout the litigation process. At this point, you must prioritize your medical treatment and returning to your normal routine.  

 

  • ♦  Settling Your Case Prior To Filing A Lawsuit

 

Only five-percent of personal injury claims, especially those involving automobile accidents, actually go to trial. The remaining 95% are settled before a lawsuit is filed. While your attorney negotiates with the insurance company representing the party responsible for your injuries, be prepared to receive an offer of settlement. If the offer is made, your attorney will advise on whether or not you should accept it. Ultimately, you, and only you, have the power to decide if the settlement is acceptable. You don’t want to settle too early to “get it over with”, as you might not fully receive the compensation you deserve.

 

  • ♦  Filing Suit In Court 

 

If an agreement cannot be reached on a settlement, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court, and a judge will set a deadline for each phase of the litigation proceedings. This is where your armor will be put to the test, as the process can take several months to several years depending on the complexity of your case. Remember, your attorney has no control over the length of time it will take to resolve your case.

Pre-Trial Phases

Complaint and Answer 

One of the first documents filed in any personal injury lawsuit, the Complaint is a document outlining your allegations regarding the injuries you’ve sustained, the facts surrounding them, the individual(s) you are suing, the legal basis of your claim, and the amount of damages you believe you are owed. After the Complaint is filed, the defendant has 30 days to “answer” to your allegations. 

Discovery

The discovery phase involves a collection and exchange of testimony, evidence, documents and information between each party. This includes written documents, such as interrogatories and requests for documents, and oral depositions. Depositions involve the questioning of witnesses, experts, and each party by a lawyer. 

Motions

The motion phase involves a submission of a written request or proposal to the court by the defense attorney. There are a variety of motions and they typically ask for a strategic ruling or direction that falls in favor of the defendant.

 

 

  • ♦  Going to Mediation

 

Once the court proceedings begin, both parties may be unwilling or unable to resolve a dispute–at which point they may decide to work with a neutral third party. This method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is called mediation. It is essentially a bargaining process by which a resolution between both parties is reached under a supervised exchange of information. Although sometimes statutes, rules, or court orders may require participation in this process, mediation is usually voluntary.

 

  • ♦  Going to Trial

 

When your case goes to trial, your attorney will present his or her arguments to the judge or jury, then the individual(s) responsible for your injuries will put on their defense. Once the arguments are presented, the judge or jury will determine if the defendant is legally responsible, and, if so, the amount of damages the defendant must pay you.

A personal injury trial consists of six phases: 

      1. Jury selection
      2. Opening statements
      3. Witness testimony and cross-examination
      4. Closing arguments
      5. Jury instruction
      6. Jury deliberation and verdict

 

  • ♦  Post-trial

While your case may be over at this point, even if the jury ruled in your favor, the defense could appeal the case and ask a higher court to reconsider the verdict. Before you receive compensation, your attorney must first pay any agencies that have legal claim to some of the damages awarded. After that, you will receive a check and the money is yours to keep.

Conclusion

Congratulations! You have reached the end of your journey and your personal injury lawsuit is now over. You’ve navigated a complex litigation process, after many twists and turns, under the guidance of a trustworthy attorney whose expert decision-making skills have delivered you the justice you deserve. You had one opportunity, acted quickly, prepared yourself, remained focused, and battled through it. 

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


10 Most Dangerous Occupations in Texas – You May be Surprised

Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019 at 9:03 am by Williams Hart   

Slips and falls, faulty electrical lines, poorly maintained machinery, lack of safety equipment, heavy objects striking out of nowhere–all are familiar hazards in the American workplace. Unfortunately, they are the cause of workplace fatalities that happen every single day.

A 2018 study led by Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics for the National Safety Council, suggests that occupations with the highest fatality rates have one of three things in common: they involve working from dangerous heights, frequent contact with dangerous machinery, or driving for substantial periods.

But which professions are statistically the most dangerous? The answer may surprise you. 

In Texas, it is typically assumed that construction work or oil and gas extraction are the most dangerous industries. While many of the listed professions below are in many ways related to those industries, it is important to take a closer look at the numbers.

The following list of the most dangerous occupations in Texas was determined by examining the fatal injury rates in 2017 for 72 occupations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, and narrowing it down to the top 10 according to industry by state.

  1. Commercial fishermen

Fatal injuries in 2017: 100.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers

Topping the list, perhaps unexpectedly, commercial fishing is a highly physical industry involving slippery decks and heavy equipment in often remote areas where access to medical care is limited.

2. Loggers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 87.3 per 100,000 workers

Second on the list, the logging industry is also physically demanding labor–primarily outdoors and in remote areas of East Texas. Fatalities are most commonly caused by contact with an object (falling branches or logs) and dangerous machinery.

3. Pilots and flight engineers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 51.3 per 100,000 workers

In an industry characterized by mental stress and demanding scheduling, aircraft pilots and flight engineers are especially subjected to transportation accidents caused primarily by exhaustion.

4. Roofers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 45.2 per 100,000 workers

Scaffolds, ladders, and roofs create hazardous worksites for roofing professionals. Additionally, roofers are also at-risk for heat related illnesses caused by unfavorable working conditions in the hot sun.

5. Recyclable material collectors

Fatal injuries in 2017: 34.9 per 100,000 workers

Most recyclable material collectors operate in a moving vehicle during a normal workday, thus the vast majority of reported fatalities are caused by transportation incidences, including auto accidents. They may also be exposed to chemical pollutants.

6. Iron and steel workers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 33.3 per 100,000 workers

The installation and repair of iron on buildings, bridges, and roads often require iron and steel workers to perform job functions at significant heights. Falls, slips, and trips are the most common causes of fatalities in this industry.

7. Truck drivers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 26.9 per 100,000 workers

Spending much of their time on the road, truck drivers are possibly at the highest risk to transportation incidents such as motor vehicle accidents. They are also at risk of sustaining injuries from moving or living heavy objects.

8. Agricultural professionals

Fatal injuries in 2017: 24.0 per 100,000 workers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers are at risk of fatal injuries involving motorized vehicles (tractors), tools, and farm machinery. Unlike the majority of dangerous occupations, the majority of reported injuries resulted in death at 58.9%

9. Groundskeepers and landscapers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 21.0 per 100,000 workers

Grounds maintenance work is considered one of the most dangerous occupations in America because it frequently requires the use of powerful machinery such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, and tractors. Unintended contact with dangerous machinery is the most common cause of death in this industry. 

10. Electrical powerline installers

Fatal injuries in 2017: 18.6 per 100,000 workers

The installation and maintenance of high voltage power lines at great heights make live wires and risk of falling the most common causes of fatal injuries in this industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the above occupations are especially subjected to occupational fatalities or injuries. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in work-related wrongful death cases and can help you get the justice that your family and loved-one deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


Crane Accidents — What Causes Them and How Can They Be Prevented?

Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at 2:34 pm by Williams Hart   

Nearly three weeks have passed since an out-of-service crane collapsed on top of a local Dallas apartment building during an overnight storm, killing one and injuring many others. Bigge Crane & Rigging, one of the largest and longest-established companies in the industry, made a statement that the crane collapsed due to reported storm winds that reached 75mph on the night of the accident.

Just 8 days after the toppled crane ripped through the Elan City Lights apartment building, another storm overturned a crane located in a residential neighborhood in Irving, TX. Officials stated that high storm winds, again, caused the crane to tip over. Fortunately no injuries were reported. 

In the aftermath of these incidences, experts have started a conversation on what could, and should, have been done to prevent them. 

Former federal crane accident investigator Thomas Barth stated that “High winds blew it over backwards, and these cranes are able to withstand winds up to 140 mph”. 

“Was it installed properly?” He asked.

Where does the responsibility lie?

For those who are suffering injuries–or worse, the loss of a loved one–related to a crane accident, these unanswered questions linger in the shadow of every unmanned machine left to teeter in the wind. 

What are the major causes of crane accident injuries? 

Whether your apartment building is under renovation or you’re closing in on the end of your shift as an operator, it’s important to understand what can happen when a crane is not inspected, maintained, or used properly. 

According to the Occupational Safety Hazard Association (OSHA), the following list are some of the major causes of crane accident injuries: 

  • Contact with powerlines
  • Hook-lifting device failures
  • Improperly trained crane operators
  • Dropped loads
  • Failing to comply with manufacturer safety precautions
  • Rigging failures

While the cases presented above are still under investigation, the crane collapse likely occurred due to parking the machine on unlevel ground. 

How can future crane accident injuries be prevented?

In 2010, OSHA issued an updated list of standards related to the use of cranes and derricks in construction. They include:

  • Pre-erection inspection of tower crane parts.
  • Use of synthetic slings in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions during assembly and disassembly.
  • Deeper assessment of ground conditions.
  • Training, qualification, and certification of crane operators.
  • Improved procedures for working in the vicinity of power lines.

These recent accidents are a reminder that construction site managers and crane operators must continue implementing measures such as adhering to safety inspection policies that would further reduce workers’ exposure to potentially fatal hazards.

Occupational injuries and fatalities in the construction industry are especially difficult, both for the victims and their families. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in work-related injury cases and can help you get the justice that your family and loved one deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


Underwater Welding: The Most Dangerous Offshore Energy Profession

Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at 1:22 pm by Williams Hart   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experience unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. 

Specifically, a major source of oil and natural gas for the United States, the western and central Gulf of Mexico is now home to approximately 175 offshore drilling rigs that produce 1.65 million barrels of oil per day (2017). 

Thousands of industry professionals have flocked to deep water drilling rigs along the coast on the promise of abundant, well-paying labor. Although oil and gas extraction professionals earn famously lucrative compensation, their operations are not without risk. In fact, as of 2017 the number of work-related fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry increased by 27.6%, with a total of 1,189 deaths. 

Undoubtedly, the most dangerous offshore energy profession is underwater welding. Deep water drilling rigs require rigorous maintenance, specifically platforms and pipelines. While underwater welding is considered one of the most gainful specializations on offshore drilling rigs, it is also the most hazardous. 

Underwater welders are at risk to numerous threats, including but not limited to: 

  • Electrocution
  • Drowning
  • Decompression sickness
  • Hypothermia

Occupational injuries and fatalities in the oil and gas industry are especially serious realities for underwater welders. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in oil and natural gas injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


The ‘Fatal Four’–What Does a Construction Site Injury Look Like?

Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at 1:17 pm by Williams Hart   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas had the highest number of fatal work accidents in 2016. One in five of those fatalities were construction site accidents, with 64% of those related to the “Fatal Four”.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified the leading causes of construction industry deaths and injuries as: falls, struck-by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between equipment or objects–otherwise known as the “Fatal Four”.

Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injury in the construction industry. These injuries occur when personal fall arrest equipment is not used properly, perimeter protection is not installed or maintained, floor openings are improperly secured and labeled, and ladders and scaffolds are not scaled safely.

Struck-by object

The second leading cause of injury in the construction injury is struck-by objects. Employees are especially exposed to these hazards when they position themselves between moving and fixed objects and/or do not high-visibility clothes near equipment/vehicles.

Electrocution

The third leading cause of injury in the construction industry is electrocution. This type of injury is typically caused by lack of awareness of power lines and not maintaining a safe distance from them, operating portable electric tools that are not grounded or double insulated, not using ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection, and poor visibility on ladders and scaffolds.

Caught-in or in-between 

The fourth leading cause of injury in the construction industry is caught-in or in-between objects or equipment. These accidents occur when an employee enters an unprotected trench or excavation 5 feet or deeper without an adequate protective system in place, such as sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that eliminating these ‘fatal four’ leading causes of construction worker injuries would save 582 workers’ lives in America every year.

Construction workers are especially subjected to occupational fatalities or injuries. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in work-related wrongful death and personal injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or fatally injured in a construction site accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The Houston attorneys of Williams Hart have experience assisting families of wrongful death victims. Please do not hesitate to contact our law firm at (888) 220-0640 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


Eagle Ford Shale Leads Texas in Energy-Industry Death Toll

Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2019 at 2:58 pm by Williams Hart   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experienced unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. 

In the midst of this rapid growth came the discovery of oil and gas in the Eagle Ford Shale, a long, geological formation that straddles the heartland of Texas’ central-southern regions. Its brittle sedimentary structure is extracted through hydraulic fracturing–otherwise known as fracking, a process in which rock is smashed with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release small pockets of oil and gas inside.

Stretching across the brush country of South Texas, from Madisonville–just north of Houston–all the way to the western rural regions of Carrizo Springs and Crystal City, the Eagle Ford Shale has been the most oil-and-gas-rich geological formation in the state since its discovery in 2008.

At roughly 50 miles wide and 400 miles long the Eagle Ford Shale is home nearly 30 counties in which thousands of locals are settled and oil and gas professionals have flocked to on the promise of hefty financial compensation. 

Like any other energy-industry hub, similar to the eruption that occurred in the Permian Basin of West Texas, these counties have stood witness to an alarming spike in occupational fatalities. 

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Eagle Ford Shale leads the state in oil-and-gas related fatalities.

Common Causes of Drilling Rig Injuries

Energy-industry professionals are at risk of numerous hazards in the oilfields of the Eagle Ford Shale:

  • Fires and explosions
  • Chemical exposure
  • Equipment failure
  • Slips and falls
  • Electrocution

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of fatal work injury cases in oil and gas extraction industries were 27 percent higher in 2014 in comparison to the previous year. 

Additionally, between 2010 and 2014, 615 U.S. oil field workers died with 270 (44%) of those being from Texas. And in 2014 alone, half of the country’s oil field deaths were in Texas.

Following these fatalities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) completed rig site investigations found that 78% of Texas oil-field accidents could have been prevented with safer equipment or the implementation of safety procedures.

What To Do in the Event of an Injury

Occupational fatalities are unfortunately prevalent in the oil and gas industry, especially in the busy regions of the Eagle Ford Shale. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in oil and natural gas injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.


Big Rigs and the Eagle Ford Shale–A Look at South-Central Texas’ Collision Epidemic

Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2019 at 1:26 pm by Williams Hart   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experienced unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. 

But with the oil production boom there comes a familiar price: the safety and lives of the workforce pouring into South-Central Texas, determined to secure steady work and financial stability, and the local population already settled in the 30 counties that make up the long stretch of oil-rich geological formations known as the Eagle Ford Shale.

The countless lives affected by commercial motor vehicle accidents, specifically in the harsh brush-country of South-Central Texas, is a reflection of a deeper issue that has not received adequate attention. 

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the state saw a surge of traffic deaths in 2014, including the 272 lives lost on the roads of the Eagle Ford Shale–an increase of 13% from the previous year. 

Is the spike in big rig accidents related to the oil boom that took place in the energy-rich lands of South-Central Texas? 

A 2015 report released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) says yes.

The study clearly and concretely supports the notion that the amount of drilling activity in an area, such as the Eagle Ford Shale, is strongly correlated with the number of rural commercial vehicle crashes. 

Based on data comparison from 2006-2009 and 2010-2013, research concludes with the following: 

  • As the number of new wells in South-Central Texas increased by 131%;
    • Rural commercial motor vehicles (CMV) collisions increased by 62%;
    • Collision injury costs increased by 52%

Conversely, when drilling activity diminishes, so does the number road accidents.

Common Causes of Big Rig Accidents

  • Driver fatigue

According to the Texas Trucking Association, the state is short nearly 50,000 truck drivers and that number is only expected to increase. With a rapidly retiring workforce, lack of interest from younger generations, stagnant wages, and increasing freight loads, truck drivers are burdened with longer working hours and less time to get from point A to point B. Simply put, drivers cannot keep up with oil production and thus are suffering immense fatigue.

  • Drug and alcohol use

Legal and illegal drug and alcohol use contributes to nearly 65,000 big rig accidents annually. Inconsistent drug and alcohol testing for CDL drivers operating a commercial vehicle is a significant issue. Furthermore, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that 22 percent of truck drivers were driving while receiving disability benefits for epilepsy, alcohol addiction, or drug dependence.

  • Texting and driving

The likelihood of being involved in an accident on the road is 23.2 times higher for truck drivers who text while behind the wheel than for those who don’t. 

Other common causes: 

  • Overweight freight loads
  • Improper vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • Cargo security
  • Poor road conditions and infrastructure, especially in rural West Texas

Road Fatality Prevention Measures

As roadways continue to deteriorate under the weight of countless heavy truck fleets transporting crude oil out of the Eagle Ford Shale, officials have taken notice–and action. 

In 2012, the Texas Department of Transportation developed the Roads for Texas Energy task-force to assess road damage associated with oil and gas production activity in the Eagle Ford Shale regions. 

As of 2016, the task-force has continued addressing these issues by investing investing $569 million in funding to:

  • Prioritize corridors based on three-year average crash data
  • Improve pavement design and reinforcement in those corridors, such as adding turn lanes and shoulder lanes in key locations.

What You Can Do to Prevent Road Fatalities

Road accidents involving 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles are likely to increase as oil production continues to rise in the areas of South-Central Texas. There are measures you can take to subdue the number of fatalities that are expected to occur in the future:

  • Drivers must adhere to limited work hours regulations, such as the 11-hour driving limit and 60-hour weekly duty limit. If the demand for new truck drivers is to be met, life on the road must be improved with shorter work hours and more time to rest.
  • Practice safe driving, for both truckers and passenger vehicles
    • No tailgating, use turn signals, minimize lane changing, stay out of blind spots, use caution in work zones and in inclement weather, apply breaks early
  • Logistics professionals must be cognizant of safety measures such as land transportation safety policies, routine commercial vehicle inspections, and proper freight load management that would further reduce drivers’ exposure to fatal road hazards.

Get the Justice You Deserve

Road fatalities and injuries involving 18-wheelers are serious realities for both big rig operators and regular vehicle passengers, especially on the treacherous, oil-rich roads that wind across the Eagle Ford Shale. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in truck driving accident injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (800) 220-9341 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.

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