Suit against PG&E Reinstated

The family of a man who suffered fatal injuries while trimming a tree has been given the green light to sue Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The California Court of Appeals ruled that the case can move forward after a district court judge ruled earlier that the company had met all required standards as set out by the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC).

Back in September 2007, Carlos Olvera had been hired to clear branches from a redwood tree. Unknown to Olvera, a high-power electric line lay hidden among the branches. After the man inadvertently made contact with the 12,000-volt line, the current struck the man, resulting in his death.

The family reached a settlement with the homeowner and the man’s employer; however, PG&E and the contracting company, the Davey Tree Expert Co., argued successfully in the lower court that they could not be sued because the distance between the line and the foliage complied with the PUC’s standard’s for distance. The district court agreed with the companies’ contention and allowed the lawsuit to be dismissed.

This month, the First District Court of Appeals out of San Francisco reinstated the lawsuit in a 3-0 ruling. In the court’s opinion, the justices ruled that a court can decide whether a sufficient amount of distance had been maintained between branches and a power line.

The court based its reasoning on the fact that the PUC had previously told utilities that more foliage may need to be cleared in order to maintain adequate safety. Therefore the court may make a judgment on whether reasonable clearance decisions had been made by the companies.

PG&E has been involved in other issues concerning safety recently. Two days after the appeal court’s ruling, a home in Carmel blew up in a natural gas explosion. Natural gas workers were apparently confused over a PG&E gas line map while attempting to hook up different lines. The blast completely destroyed the one-bedroom home. Fortunately, nobody was home and the crew suffered no injuries.
Violations of record-keeping by PG&E will make up a large part of the case currently before the PUC. Back in 2010, a spectacular natural gas explosion ripped through a San Bruno neighborhood, leveling 38 homes and killing eight people.

According to a report from radio station KPCC, PG&E pledged to fix inaccurate records after the San Bruno catastrophe. It is alleged that inaccurate records led to the 2010 explosion. Critics contend that PG&E didn’t run proper tests that would have exposed the problem.

PG&E could be fined up to $2.5 billion by the PUC.

Sources:
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/PG-amp-E-Carmel-home-explosion-blamed-on-bad-5316064.php
http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/03/13/42787/3-years-after-san-bruno-gas-explosion-is-californi/
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Court-reinstates-family-s-suit-against-PG-amp-E-5279410.php

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Common Causes Of Commercial Trucking Accidents

Weighing in at up to 80,000 pounds, and stretching up to 75 feet in length, a fully loaded tractor trailer is an intimidating sight for many motorists. The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that the nation’s 2.4 million large commercial trucks carry 11 billion tons of freight each year, and they travel a distance of over 286 million miles. While most of these miles are covered by trucks in excellent mechanical condition, operated by safe and experienced drivers, accidents involving tractor trailers are still a frequent, and often deadly, occurrence.

The most comprehensive statistics concerning truck accidents are released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, and their most recent figures make for grim reading. While the numbers of accidents is relatively low, just 3,197 in 2009, the fatality rate is very high. More concerning, is the vulnerability of passenger vehicle occupants in this type of collision. Statistics show that 85% of the 3,619 fatalities resulting from large commercial vehicle accidents were other road users. The FMCSA also released a detailed report in 2007 called the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which detailed the most frequent causes of truck accidents.

Driver error is ten times more likely to cause an accident than any other factor according to the agency. These errors often stem from drivers fatigued due to a grueling schedule and strict timetable. Many surveys have demonstrated that driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk, and an excessively tired operator of an 80,000 pond vehicle is a danger to all other motorists. Making the situation even more perilous is the frequent use of prescription and illicit drugs by truck drivers to stay alert, and the lax enforcement of regulations to catch operators driving under the influence. An undercover federal investigation in 2007 found that 75% of facilities charged with drug testing truck drivers did not maintain adequate security. Other driver errors are the result of truck operators frequently negotiating unknown roads in unfamiliar areas.

The second most common cause of truck accidents is equipment failure. The nation’s highways are littered with the remnants of shredded truck tires, and tire failure frequently leads to operators losing control of their vehicles. Inadequate maintenance and improper loading are also major causes, often the result of trucking companies desperately trying to rein in costs as margins shrink while the economy slowly recovers from recession. Inexperience when loading is also a factor, and freight distributed unevenly can pose a threat as it may shift during high speed maneuvers.

The third leading cause of truck accidents is poor driving conditions, which are often caused by bad weather. Trucks are far heavier than cars and require a far greater stopping-distance in an emergency braking situation. This can become extremely dangerous when visibility is reduced, the road surface is slick or they are not given enough room to maneuver by other road users.

Sources:
http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html
http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/commodity_flow_survey/brochure.html
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/LTBCF2009/tbl1.htm
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/research-technology/analysis/fmcsa-rra-07-017.htm
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21568973/#.UqNrMScliGk

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Can Breast Implants Delay Cancer Misdiagnosis?

Millions of families are affected by breast cancer each year. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, statistics show that one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.

When detected early, this cancer can be treatable. However, a new study has concluded that those who have undergone a breast augmentation may be at an increased risk for delayed breast cancer diagnosis. The results of the study indicate that mammograms are not as effective at detecting abnormalities in those with implants as those that are performed on women without artificial breasts.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to look for disease in women by indicating any abnormalities in the tissues. Following an abnormal mammogram, a woman may be required to undergo additional screenings to allay or confirm suspicions of breast cancer.

The medical records of 5,005 breast cancer patients were reviewed by researchers at the University of Southern California. These patients had received treatments over the past 15 years to determine whether mammograms were more or less effective at revealing abnormalities in those who had undergone breast augmentations. Researchers found that, among those with implants, the mammograms failed to reveal an existing abnormal condition in 36% of cases. On the other hand, the false-negative rate for mammogram screening in those without breast implants was just 15%.

Both gel and silicone implants are radio opaque to a degree; they appear as white masses or “blobs” in X-rays. In a mammogram, this whitening can obscure the visualization of underlying tissue and make it increasingly challenging to detect abnormalities. Additionally, breast implants may compress and displace the surrounding tissue and potentially cause early warning signs of cancer like small dense masses and micro-calcifications to be distorted in the images of the mammogram.

As more women undergo breast augmentation procedures, healthcare providers should take additional care to ensure that signs of cancer are not overlooked due to an overreliance on mammograms. The earlier the signs or symptoms of breast cancer are discovered, the better the prognosis for the patient, as misdiagnosis can have devastating and often fatal health consequences.

Sources:
http://uspolitics.einnews.com/247pr/238319
http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/

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Serious Injuries That Can Result From Dog Bites

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 4.5 million Americans suffer from dog bites each year. Perhaps frighteningly, around half of these victims are children. The CDC estimates that one out of five dog bites are severe enough to necessitate medical care. The groups considered most probable to receive a dog bite include men, dog owners, and young children, ages five to nine. Besides being a painful and shocking experience, being bitten by a dog can also have serious medical consequences.

Punctures and Lacerations

The teeth of a dog, especially a large breed, are capable of piercing and tearing the skin, leaving behind puncture wounds and lacerations. These wounds often require stitches in order to close them up, which can be difficult with lacerations. Furthermore, such injuries have a tendency to easily become infected, which can result in secondary medical problems.

Rabies

One of the most alarming aspects of a dog bite injury is the risk of contracting rabies. This disease, if not treated promptly, is fatal. While rabid dogs are uncommon in developed countries, stray dogs may still acquire the virus from contact with other strays or wild animals like squirrels, raccoons, and possums.

Scarring

A dog bite isn’t always a single, quick injury. In some cases, the dog may continue attacking the victim, mauling them extensively. Unfortunately, this sort of attack often results in considerable scarring, which can permanently disfigure the victim or cause other long-term medical issues.

Emotional Trauma

The injuries caused by dog attacks aren’t just physical. They can also leave lasting psychological and emotional wounds. It’s not uncommon for victims, especially those who are children, to suffer from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder following a dog attack. A persistent fear of dogs, suffering panic attacks upon seeing a dog, or recurring nightmares about the incident may be signs of mental and emotional injury.

Blood Loss

Being viciously attacked by a dog presents a very real risk of serious blood loss, especially if the dog’s teeth rupture an artery. If it’s not treated right away, extensive blood loss can result in brain damage and death.

Nerve Damage

Someone who has been bitten by a dog, especially on the feet, hands, arms, or legs, has a high risk of suffering nerve damage. The nerves in these areas of the body are closer to the skin than in other parts, and can be more easily damaged by a dog’s teeth. Nerve damage can, and typically does, result in numbness, paresthesia, pain, or permanent loss of movement.

Sources:
http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/dog-bites/index.html
http://contemporarypediatrics.modernmedicine.com/contemporary-pediatrics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/dog-bites-children-focu

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What Types of Toys Put My Toddler in Danger?

Toys should always be checked for age requirements. The recommended age levels are prominently visible on the outside of toy display boxes. When the toys are used in an appropriate manner, the child safety guidelines are a good indication of whether the toy is safe. Unfortunately, toys can break or be used in a way that was unintended, which creates a safety risk. Parents need to be vigilant to keep their children safe from toy-related danger.

Choking Hazards

Balloons

Children can easily swallow balloons and while most parents know to keep intact balloons away from their kids, balloon pieces are just as dangerous. After a balloon breaks, the pieces should be removed from the ground or any place the child might find them.

Plastic Film

Any toys with plastic film can be a hazard. The film is used to protect mirrored surfaces from being scratched. If the film is not removed, the child could swallow and choke on it. This includes any kind of surface film protection.

Toys with Strings and Straps

Toy guitars, necklaces and stuffed toys on hanging straps are dangerous to small children. Anything with a strap that could twist around a child’s neck is a potential hazard. The strap should be removed if possible.

Intestinal Injury

Magnets

Even tiny magnets can be an issue if one or more are swallowed. The magnets can get trapped by becoming magnetized to each other causing holes in the intestinal walls, blood poisoning, infection or death. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends keeping all magnets away from children including those embedded in other toys or devices.

Batteries

Tiny button batteries can be a huge problem for small children. They can be swallowed and become lodged in the throat or intestines. In only a few hours, the battery can cause a chemical burn inside the child’s throat, stomach, intestine, or wherever else the battery has lodged.

Parents with older children have to be extra vigilant and remove dangerous toys from a smaller child’s vicinity before something extremely dangerous happens. Older children often have batteries for their devices, magnets as components in other items, and toys with straps and strings that can be a choking hazard.

Source: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Toys/

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