Car Crashes and Your Insurance Company

Drivers involved in car crashes often worry about what will happen to their insurance rates. There are millions of car accidents every year, most of which involve insured drivers, and each case is different. To understand what might happen to your policy if you are involved in the crash, you have to look at several different factors.The ClaimWhenever you are involved in a car accident that results in damage to a vehicle or an injury to a person, insurance companies are usually involved. When you are involved in an accident, one of the first things you typically have to do after making sure everyone is safe and collecting all the relevant information, is to call your insurance company. After calling the company you inform the agent or representative about what happened and that representative will assign your case a claim number. The company will then assign a claims agent or investigator to the case to begin an investigation.After the insurance company investigates the claim, reviews the coverage details, and determines who is at fault, it will then, typically, make a payment on the claim. This money is designed to bring you, or the other driver, back to the condition you were in before the crash. For example, if you are in a crash where the other driver was at fault and caused your car $1,500 in damage, the other driver’s insurance company will pay you $1,500 to repair your vehicle.The AftermathOnce the claim has been settled, drivers will then have to deal with the aftermath. Even though no two accidents are identical, here is what can happen.Your rates go up. You expected this one. …

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Asbestos Blunder Results in Demolition Firm Fine

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Asbestos Blunder Results in Demolition Firm FineAsbestos Blunder Results in Demolition Firm FineA Portsmouth company has faced criminal charges today after it stripped more than 50 metres of asbestos board without the correct licences.James Site Services, of Cosham, was taken to Court by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after inspectors carried out a routine inspection at one of its small development sites in Fareham, Hampshire and uncovered serious failings.Asbestos InsulationPortsmouth Magistrates’ Court was told that James Site Services, which specialises mainly in site preparation for demolition projects, had been hired to strip out asbestos from a bungalow that was due to be refurbished.During an inspection, the HSE discovered the company had illegally removed 54 metres of cancer-causing insulation boards, even though it did not have the correct licence.Only registered tradesmen are allowed to handle asbestos removal work because of the dangers it poses, with Mesothelioma cancer, which is caused by fibres from the material coating the inside of a worker’s lungs, resulting in hundreds of deaths a year in the UK.Asbestos Survey IgnoredAlthough James Site Services had correctly commissioned a survey to identify the presence of asbestos, the HSE said the company chose to ignore its findings and carried out the asbestos removal work itself, exposing workers to serious dangers.For its part in this decision, James Site Services was fined a total of £500 and told to pay £1,000 in costs after it pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.In cases where executives ignore the concerns of third parties in relation to asbestos, penalties are normally larger, but because James Site Services is only a very small company, the sanctions were made less severe.”Serious Failing”Speaking after his organisation’s successful prosecution, HSE inspector Dominic Goacher said, “This was a serious failing on the part of the company. Having received the survey they asked for, it looks as though no one at James Site Services bothered to read it. Or, if they did, they disregarded its contents and failed to act to protect workers from possible exposure to one of the deadly killers in industry.”HSE operates a highly-regulated licence regime in order to ensure work with asbestos is carried out safely by a skilled, competent workforce. By taking the work on, James Site Services not only put their workers at risk but also gained an unfair financial advantage.”Mr Goacher added that it is very important companies not only get an asbestos survey done, but that they also follow its guidance and ensure that staff members are properly protected.One of the most dangerous factors in dealing with asbestos is that it is almost invisible and is very hard to identify at first glance.Asbestos Hidden Killer CampaignIn an attempt to highlight the dangers of exposure to asbestos materials, the HSE recently launched its Hidden Killer campaign to educate small business owners on the seriousness of asbestos inhalation.Not only can improper asbestos extraction lead to litigation, it can cause those affected to suffer from a slow, painful death, as the inner-lining of the lungs is heavily damaged by the material.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Arm Injury Accident at Work Leads to Fine

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Arm Injury Accident at Work Leads to FineArm Injury Accident at Work Leads to FineCEP Ceilings has been hit with a hefty fine following an accident in which an employee’s arm was injured after getting caught in a machine.The worker was operating a amchine at its premises in Stafford last year when his forearm got trapped in its intermeshing metal gears. He subsequently had to undergo skin grafts in order for the wounds to heal.Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the accident came about partly because CEP Ceilings failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment on the site.The HSE also discovered that the company had not implemented a safe system of work, while employees were not monitored sufficiently when they were using machinery.£24,000 FineCEP Ceilings later pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 at Stafford Magistrates’ Court. The company was ordered to pay a £24,000 fine plus £1,194 in costs.Unsafe Methods ‘Existed for Many Years’After the sentence was issued in court, the HSE criticised CEP Ceilings for having adopted an unsafe way of working for a long time.Wayne Owen, an inspector at the watchdog, said procedures that had not been fit for purpose had “existed for many years” and this led to the employee suffering a “painful injury”.”CEP Ceilings [failed] to effectively assess the risk to employees from using and clearing the machine and then prescribe a system of work which kept employees safe,” he commented.”Workers were left to determine their own methods of cleaning machinery.”Mr Owen insisted that employers must implement safe working procedures and ensure members of staff are properly instructed and trained on how to comply with these rules in full.This, he said, can help to manage risks during both production and maintenance activities at premises where industrial machinery is in use.”A robust system to monitor employees also needs to be in place to detect any poor practices,” Mr Owen commented.Related Work Accident in StaffordshireThe case follows another work accident in which Andrew Thomas, an employee at Marling Leek in Staffordshire, also suffered an arm injury after it got caught in an unguarded machine.Mr Thomas subsequently had to undergo five operations, but was left with permanent scars, while the strength and feeling in his arm has been reduced as a result of nerve damage and muscle loss.The HSE was particularly critical of Marling Leek as it had been prosecuted over a previous accident in the past, but had failed to address the problems and carry out an adequate risk assessment throughout the business.Lyn Spooner, an inspector at the HSE, insisted that carrying out a risk assessment is a “vital process to allow a company to identify significant risk and ensure it is complying with relevant statutory provisions”.She added that there is extensive guidance on preventing access to dangerous machine parts in the workplace to enable employers to comply with the law.By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Coating Firm Fined After Worker Seriously Damages Hand

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Coating Firm Fined After Worker Seriously Damages HandCoating Firm Fined After Worker Seriously Damages HandDT Powder Coating, a Bedfordshire-based business, has been handed a large fine following an episode that saw an unnamed employee suffer serious injuries to his right hand.What happened?In September 2012, at the company’s Leighton Buzzard site, the worker was struck by a metal basket and cradle which fell on him after an eyebolt attached to a crane failed, leading the objects to be launched into a degreasing tank.Injuries sustainedThe heavy metal cradle struck the employee’s right hand, leading to serious lacerations, several bones being broken and damage to his nerves and tendons.Since sustaining his injuries, the employee found himself unable to work for over a year.HSE investigationThe first failing by DT Powder Coating was that it did not report the accident within the required 15-day period.However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was eventually called in to investigate the event and identified a number of areas in which the company had failed to prevent such accidents from taking place.The HSE investigation into the case revealed employees had been concerned about the health and safety practices carried out by DT Powder Coating for some time.Speaking after the Court case, HSE inspector Emma Rowlands said, “We received several complaints from current and previous employees regarding this company.”These three employee concerns led to four improvement notices being served to DT Powder Coating by the HSE.During the inquiry, it was found that employees had not been properly trained on how to lift equipment safely and there was no system in place to ensure such tasks were carried out in the correct manner.The HSE noted the faulty eyebolt needed to have been screwed into the basket’s framework much more securely, as its looseness appeared to be the primary cause of the accident.Ms Rowlands said, “Our investigation revealed a lack of basic employee training and that lifting operations were carried out in a way that exposed employees to risk of injury. In this case, an employee suffered a needless injury, which has prevented him from working for over a year.”OutcomeEarlier this week, Luton Magistrates’ Court ruled that DT Powder Coating was guilty of breaching Regulation 2 of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act and Regulation 3 of the 1995 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, as well as Regulation 5 of the 1998 Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.The first of these breaches relates to the company failing to ensure the welfare of its workers, while the second is because the firm did not report the accident within the correct period of time. The third and final breach relates to the business’ failure to maintain its machinery properly and keep records of any repairs needed or how long it has been since they were last carried out.For these safety failings, the firm was ordered by the Court to pay a fine of £36,000 plus an additional £10,509 in legal costs.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Mystery of planet-forming disks explained by magnetism

Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006.Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected. The planet-forming disks that circle the young stars are heated by starlight and glow with infrared light, but Spitzer detected additional infrared light coming from an unknown source.A new theory, based on three-dimensional models of planet-forming disks, suggests the answer: Gas and dust suspended above the disks on gigantic magnetic loops like those seen on the sun absorb the starlight and glow with infrared light.”If you could somehow stand on one of these planet-forming disks and look at the star in the center through the disk atmosphere, you would see what looks like a sunset,” said Neal Turner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.The new models better describe how planet-forming material around stars is stirred up, making its way into future planets, asteroids and comets.While the idea of magnetic atmospheres on planet-forming disks is not new, this is the first time they have been linked to the mystery of the observed excess infrared light. According to Turner and colleagues, the magnetic atmospheres are similar to what takes place on the surface of our sun, where moving magnetic field lines spur tremendous solar prominences to flare up in big loops.Stars are born out of collapsing pockets in enormous clouds of gas and dust, rotating as they shrink down under the pull of gravity. As a star grows in size, more material rains down toward it from the cloud, and the rotation flattens this material out into a turbulent disk. Ultimately, planets clump together out of the disk material.In the 1980s, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite mission, a joint project that included NASA, began finding more infrared light than expected around young stars. Using data from other telescopes, astronomers pieced together the presence of dusty disks of planet-forming material. But eventually it became clear the disks alone weren’t enough to account for the extra infrared light — especially in the case of stars a few times the mass of the sun.One theory introduced the idea that instead of a disk, the stars were surrounded by a giant dusty halo, which intercepted the star’s visible light and re-radiated it at infrared wavelengths. Then, recent observations from ground-based telescopes suggested that both a disk and a halo were needed. Finally, three-dimensional computer modeling of the turbulence in the disks showed the disks ought to have fuzzy surfaces, with layers of low-density gas supported by magnetic fields, similar to the way solar prominences are supported by the sun’s magnetic field.The new work brings these pieces together by calculating how the starlight falls across the disk and its fuzzy atmosphere. The result is that the atmosphere absorbs and re-radiates enough to account for all the extra infrared light.”The starlight-intercepting material lies not in a halo, and not in a traditional disk either, but in a disk atmosphere supported by magnetic fields,” said Turner. …

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Fingers Severed in Accident at Work

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 2 » Fingers Severed in Accident at WorkFingers Severed in Accident at WorkTayyabah Bakery, a Burnley-based pasty-maker, has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a worker severed two of his fingers in a work accident.Reedley Magistrates’ Court heard an unnamed 35-year-old man was working with a machine that was meant to fill pasties with cheese and onion when the accident took place.However, as he did this his right hand was struck by one of the pistons and drawn inside the inner-components of the machine and two of his fingers were cut off.The man has now been off work for almost a year and still experiences pain in his fingers. It’s unlikely he will be able to return to work in the near future, such is the extent of the discomfort he feels on a daily basis.HSE officials visiting the site after the accident found that the pasty filling machine had originally been fitted with a guard, but that it was cut away five years before the unnamed worker’s injuries were sustained.For its part in the work accident, Tayyabah Bakery was fined £1,000 and told to pay £5,002 in prosecution costs after it pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous machine parts.Speaking after the case’s conclusion, HSE inspector David Myrtle said, “The machine was entirely safe to use when it was installed but, by overriding an essential safety feature to speed up production, the company exposed employees to an unacceptable and entirely avoidable level of risk.”It’s vital manufacturing companies put the health and safety of their staff before profits, otherwise accidents like this will continue to happen in the future.”Similar cases to this have seen equipment manufacturers prosecuted by the HSE because their failure to create equipment with the necessary safeguards installed, but in this case it was the fault of the bakery as it had overridden the guarding mechanism.By Francesca WitneyOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Loneliness is a major health risk for older adults

Feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent, according to research by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.Cacioppo and his colleagues’ work shows that the impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which they found increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent. A 2010 meta-analysis showed that loneliness has twice the impact on early death as does obesity, he said.Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University, joined other scholars at a seminar on “The Science of Resilient Aging” Feb. 16 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual meeting in Chicago.The researchers looked at dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health as people age. Cacioppo and colleagues have examined the role of satisfying relationships on older people to develop their resilience, the ability to bounce back after adversity and grow from stresses in life.The consequences to health are dramatic, as feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, and increase depression and lower overall subjective well-being, Cacioppo pointed out in a talk, “Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Aging.”Cacioppo, one of the nation’s leading experts on loneliness, said older people can avoid the consequences of loneliness by staying in touch with former co-workers, taking part in family traditions, and sharing good times with family and friends — all of which gives older adults a chance to connect others about whom they care and who care about them.”Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you,” said Cacioppo. Population changes make understanding the role of loneliness and health all the more important, he explained.”We are experiencing a silver tsunami demographically. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age. Each day between 2011 and 2030, an average of 10,000 people will turn 65,” he said. “People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being and early mortality.”Although some people are happy to be alone, most people thrive from social situations in which they provide mutual support and develop strong rapport. Evolution encouraged people to work together to survive and accordingly most people enjoy companionship over being alone.Research by Cacioppo and his colleagues has identified three core dimensions to healthy relationships — intimate connectedness, which comes from having someone in your life you feel affirms who you are; relational connectedness, which comes from having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding; and collective connectedness, which comes from feeling that you’re part of a group or collective beyond individual existence.It is not solitude or physical isolation itself, but rather the subjective sense of isolation that Cacioppo’s work shows to be so profoundly disruptive. Older people living alone are not necessary lonely if they remain socially engaged and enjoy the company of those around them. …

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Love at the office? When relationships go from platonic to romantic

There are three key factors that contribute to how coworkers respond to a workplace romance including how they learn about the romance, their personal views of those participating in the romance and the company culture, suggests Sean Horan, assistant professor of relational communication in DePaul University’s College of Communication.Horan is coauthor of a new study, “Love at the Office? Understanding Workplace Romance Disclosures and Reactions from the Coworker Perspective,” which was published online Feb. 5 in the Western Journal of Communication and will be printed in the March issue. The research explores the effect of workplace romances on coworkers and whether responses are primarily influenced by how the relationship is disclosed to them.”I was interested in studying workplace romances because they are incredibly common yet, across social science, there is little research in the area,” said Horan.Horan, along with coauthor Renee Cowan, assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, discovered that if coworkers found out from the couple personally, there tended to be a more positive reaction than if they found out via office gossip or catching them “in the act.””Individuals had much different reactions based on how they learned of the romance,” explained Horan. “Being honest and upfront was better received than, let’s say, walking in on your coworkers kissing in the parking garage or hearing it via office gossip.”How people personally perceived individuals in the relationship also plays a key role in their reaction. The titles of those in the workplace romance also affected their reaction, Horan said.For example, in Horan’s previous research in this area, he found that when a coworker dates a superior, they are likely to be lied to more, trusted less and viewed as less credible. One participant in the current study noted, “I was just taken aback because I knew he was pretty high up with the company and she not so much.”Additionally, the study found that company culture contributes to how coworkers view workplace romances. The authors propose that, often, more relaxed office environments don’t have official policies on interoffice relationships, making them more acceptable, while more formal offices have strict policies in place, which distinguish them as inappropriate and unprofessional.”It (the organization environment) kind of seemed like a college so it didn’t seem too unprofessional,” said another participant.This is the fourth study in an ongoing series by Horan on workplace romance.”I’ve concluded a couple of my studies the same way by saying ‘date at your own risk,'” he said.”Employees need to be aware that their peers will communicate with them differently if they have a workplace romance. Importantly, such differences can influence productivity and performance,” Horan explained.”It’s always awkward seeing your ex. Now imagine having to see them all day, every day at work.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by DePaul University. …

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Downsizing by position or tenure hurts managerial diversity, while performance guided layoffs don’t

A new study finds that corporate downsizing reduces managerial diversity, especially when layoff decisions consider workers’ position or tenure. But when layoffs are based on performance evaluations, managerial diversity remains intact — at least when it comes to white women and blacks.“It seems that the more individualized process of evaluating each worker on his or her merits — rather than using blanket criteria such as position or tenure — creates awareness and accountability among executives and motivates them to think deeply and creatively about who they should keep during downsizing,” said study author Alexandra Kalev, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. “This outcome of performance-based downsizing is not only good for managerial diversity, but also for the future of the company because the best performers are kept.”Titled, “How You Downsize Is Who You Downsize: Biased Formalization, Accountability, and Managerial Diversity,” the study, which appears in the February issue of the American Sociological Review, focuses on white and black employees and considers data on 327 private U.S-based companies that downsized between 1980 and 2002. The companies, from manufacturing, service, and retail industries, had at least 50 workers prior to layoffs.“In an average downsizing organization where layoff decisions considered workers’ position, the shares of white women and blacks in management declined by almost 25 and 20 percent, respectively,” said Kalev. “Downsizing by tenure reduced the share of white women in management by more than 20 percent. Notably, two-thirds of companies in my sample used position or tenure as criteria for layoff decisions.”Making matters worse for white female and black managers is that position-based downsizing, the most harmful type of downsizing for those groups, became increasingly prevalent over the course of the study period, Kalev said. In the early 1980s, downsizing companies made position-based layoffs less than 30 percent of the time. By 2002, however, downsizing companies made position-based layoffs more than 50 percent of the time.In addition, Kalev found that companies increasingly used external lawyers to guide them through the downsizing process, which also didn’t bode well for managerial diversity.“There is a difference between the effect of an attorney who is part of the company and one that the company hires to handle a special task,” Kalev said. “While in house attorneys helped minimize damage to managerial diversity during downsizing, outsourced legal experts did not.”This was true even when position or tenure were used in downsizing decisions. “I was surprised by the finding that an internal legal counsel made such a big difference in the results of downsizing,” Kalev said. …

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The Disability Divide: Employer Study

The Disability Divide: Employer StudyPosted onJuly 5, 2013byRichard ReichThe Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), recently published The Disability Divide: Employer Study, outlining the gaps between employees’ beliefs – and  those of HR professionals – about the odds, timing and causes of disability and the importance of protecting against it.  While I recommend this study to HR professionals, I think others might find it quite enlightening.The State of Disability in AmericaBefore we take a look at the varying beliefs mentioned above, let’s first take a look at these statistics:More than 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year olds will become disabled before they retire. 1 Ninety-five percent of disabling illnesses and accidents are not work-related and therefore are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. 2 There were 8.8 million disabled wage …

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Review of the Breastflow Memory Pump by The First Years

I’ve been pumping and donating since Ivy was 2 weeks old. I’ve used two pumps, the Ameda Purely Yours and the Medela Personal Double Pump (see my review here). Breast pumps are a big investment and are usually non-returnable. You can’t test them out in the store, so you have to go by reputation, cost, or word-of-mouth.The First Years company just came out with a new double electric breast pump, the Breastflow Memory Pump (approx $179), and offered to send me one to test out. It’s an upgrade of their earlier model, the miPump Double Electric Pump (approx $79). The big change from the old model to the new? An electronically controlled pump that can store data (time, duration, suction & speed …

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Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous material which has been in use for a long time mainly for its fire resistant qualities. Asbestos is a preferred building material due to its fire resistant and heat resistant capability coupled with the fact that it is not expensive.Asbestos was very popular amongst California business owners in the early and mid 20’s and they used it in nearly every way they could. They tried to use asbestos to create safer, and cheaper buildings, but time has proven that these building are not any safer, nor are they more cheaper,as the high cost of treating the mesothelioma disease that they caused, they also lead to loss of lives.Asbestos was once used in everything from automotive parts, clothing, and blankets. It …

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Florida Online Health Insurance plan

Florida Online Health Insurance planBuying health insurance on-line in Florida is a simple and desirable proficiency to get the insurance coverage you need. Rather than calling or contacting large numbers of agents, merely you can visit to a website and do a log-in and get further information. On the whole there are two kinds of web site that deals with receiving online health insurance coverage: Firstly those sites which operated straight way by health insurers, and quote services. Nearly all of the health insurance underwriter not only provide quotes on their websites, but also allow online applications. This is a spectacular modification from just a couple of years ago, when few of insurers didn’t even provide any individual plans.Now, it comes out that underwriters …

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Kebab worker injured in horrific accident

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2013 » 10 » Kebab worker injured in horrific accidentKebab worker injured in horrific accidentAn Essex-based kebab manufacturer has been fined after a worker suffered horrific injuries on February 9th 2012.Ethem Torunoglu, 36, from London, was working for Kismet Kebabs when the incident took place and Chelmsford Crown Court was told the man was cleaning a derinding machine when he noticed a piece of meat caught in a stripper comb.Even though the device was still running, Mr Torunoglu decided to try and dislodge the blockage by using a pressure washer, but when this failed to render the unit usable, he simply reached inside and tried to grab the offending debris.The 36-year-old’s hand was drawn inside and a serrated roller began to grind away at his hand and he could not free his limb.Despite there being an emergency stop button right next to the machine, this was just out of reach and he had to wait until a colleague could arrive and disable the unit.Mr Torunoglu was rushed to hospital and doctors treated him for significant injuries, including the loss of all knuckles on his right hand and tendon, vein and flesh damage.These ailments led to a 19-day stay in a medical facility and the 36-year-old had to have three operations to rebuild his limb, including a large skin graft taken from his left thigh. He has since had to undergo two more operations and is awaiting plastic surgery.According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Mr Torunglu has been unable to return to work.HSE inspectors told Chelmsford Crown Court training for the deriding machine was poor and employees had not been made aware of risks involved in cleaning the device.As a result of this, Kismet Kebabs was fined £17,500 and told to pay £7,500 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching two regulations.After the successful prosecution, HSE inspector Julie Rayner said: “This incident was wholly avoidable. Ethem Torunoglu was failed by the company’s lack of proper training, inadequate assessment of risks and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.”By Chris StevensonOr call us on 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Hormone may help fight obesity and reduce cholesterol

Sep. 3, 2013 — Research has shown that giving obese rodents a recently identified circulating protein called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) helps improve their metabolism. Now investigators reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism reveal that a variant of FGF21 has similar effects in obese people with type 2 diabetes.”Our findings suggest that FGF21 has the ability to favorably affect body weight and to partially normalize abnormal lipid levels in patients with diabetes. These are substantial issues and unmet medical needs for patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes,” says senior author Dr. David Moller, vice president of endocrine and cardiovascular research at Eli Lilly and Company.Lilly scientists initially identified FGF21 as a novel target for its potential in treating metabolic disorders. Dr. Moller and his colleagues studied the effects of LY2405319 (LY), a variant of FGF21, in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind proof-of-concept trial in 46 patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. LY treatment led to decreases in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increases in HDL cholesterol, and decreases in atherosclerosis-causing lipoproteins.LY also reduced body weight and fasting insulin, and it increased adiponectin, a hormone produced by fat cells that may augment insulin’s effects. While there was only a slight lowering of blood glucose levels in patients treated with LY, the study’s results indicate that FGF21 is active in humans and suggest that FGF21-based therapies may be effective for treating metabolic disorders.”We are encouraged by the potential of FGF21 to produce multiple metabolic effects in people with diabetes and are evaluating further concepts for FGF21-based therapies,” says Dr. Moller. …

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Mechanical chest compressions for cardiac arrest just as good as manual, study suggests

Sep. 1, 2013 — In the event of cardiac arrest outside of a hospital it is important to provide effective chest compressions without interruption. Creating blood flow reduces the risk of brain damage and improves the chances of survival. A new Swedish study shows that mechanical treatment yields results that are at least as good as manual treatment.The new findings are being presented today at the annual ESC (European Society of Cardiology) conference in Amsterdam. Research on cardiac arrest has focused for many years on improving treatment by increasing blood flow in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and by lowering the body temperature in order to limit brain damage and increase the chance of survival. In recent years there has been a growing interest in mechanical chest compression, and a few products are now available on the market. But there have been no rigorous scientific studies of their function.After a small pilot study in collaboration with the company that developed the LUCAS device for mechanical chest compressions, a comprehensive clinical study was started in 2008. The study looked at 2.589 patients with cardiac arrest from six ambulance areas in Sweden, the Netherlands, and England. They were randomly placed either in a group that received mechanical chest compressions or in a group that underwent traditional treatment with manual chest compressions according to guidelines.Patients’ survival and neurological condition were monitored from four hours after the cardiac arrest up to six months after they were discharged from hospital. The results show no significant differences between the groups — both groups survived to the same extent and in equally good neurological condition. …

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Smoking cessation two by two

July 24, 2013 — To quit smoking is not easy. Support from one’s partner can help — but only if the smokers have developed skills of their own that help them to stop. This has been shown by a study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).It is quite common to find couples where one partner does not smoke while the other is a smoker who wishes to stop. What can both of them do to help achieve the smoker’s goal? Seeking to find an answer to this question, the psychologist Urte Scholz, who teaches at the University of Constance, and her team from the University of Zurich studied 99 cohabiting, heterosexual couples. The researchers asked the participants to fill in a questionnaire on their behaviour and on support received from their partner two weeks before the smoker had quit, and again a month after the quit date. In addition, the successful cessation of smoking was verified by means of a test which measures the amount of carbon monoxide in the breath.Self-efficacy and supportThe result: support from their partners is helpful to smokers who wish to stop and it increases their chances of success, provided that they have developed skills of their own that help them to abstain. Smokers who display a high degree of “self-efficacy” — confidence in their ability to stop smoking despite difficulties — and who also receive the right kind of support from their partner are more likely to break the habit. Such support could involve their partner reminding them of their plan to quit as well as encouraging and supporting them in critical situations.Careful planningThe same is true of the coping strategies that the smoker plans to apply in difficult situations (for instance, taking a chewing gum or being reminded of one’s wish to quit when spending an evening in the company of smokers and feeling an uncontrollable craving for a cigarette). Smokers who plan carefully and — again — receive the right kind of support from their partners are more likely to stop for good.When occurring on their own, self-efficacy, coping strategies and social support did not increase the chances of quitting. …

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Calming your dog’s anxiety during noisy Fourth of July

July 1, 2013 — Dog owners everywhere feel a pang of anxiety as the Fourth of July approaches. Will their pooch simply hide under the bed when fireworks go off or run for the hills? If you’re the owner of a dog with noise phobias, what can you do?University of Washington psychologist James Ha, a specialist in animal behavior, has several suggestions, each with its own set of pros and cons.Ha, an associate professor with a side business as an animal behavior consultant, says there are three main ways to handle noise phobias: management, treatment and drugs.Management involves removing the dog from the situation. Owners might put their pets in the basement with loud music on so they don’t hear the fireworks. Others may take their dog to a kennel far removed from potential fireworks. Many kennels offer special Fourth of July programs.If you choose the kennel-in-the-country option, Ha says it’s important that your dog is already comfortable with the kennel; for example, it should be a kennel you use regularly when you’re on vacation. Don’t just drop dogs off at a new kennel on the Fourth of July and expect them to be happy.Treatment options can include special wraps that apply gentle acupressure, or counterconditioning to replace an undesirable response to a stimulus (fear) with a positive one.Ha and two researchers from Tufts University in Boston recently published a paper on the effectiveness of a product called Anxiety Wrap for calming dogs during thunderstorms. Ha says there are many similar products that all work essentially the same.”The Anxiety Wraps work for some dogs and they work for acute situations, or short-term situations,” Ha said of the research, which was funded by the company that makes Anxiety Wrap. “The distinction is, most dog bites and aggression is related to fear and anxiety — of children, of cars, of men — it’s a chronic thing. So the Anxiety Wrap is not going to work on those situations. …

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People prefer ‘carrots’ to ‘sticks’ when it comes to healthcare incentives

June 26, 2013 — To keep costs low, companies often incentivize healthy lifestyles. Now, new research suggests that how these incentives are framed — as benefits for healthy-weight people or penalties for overweight people — makes a big difference.The research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows that policies that carry higher premiums for overweight individuals are perceived as punishing and stigmatizing.Researcher David Tannenbaum of the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles wanted to investigate how framing healthcare incentives might influence people’s attitudes toward the incentives.”Two frames that are logically equivalent can communicate qualitatively different messages,” Tannenbaum explains.In the first study, 126 participants read about a fictional company grappling with managing their employee health-care policy. They were told that the company was facing rising healthcare costs, due in part to an increasing percentage of overweight employees, and were shown one of four final policy decisions.The “carrot” plan gave a $500 premium reduction to healthy-weight people, while the “stick” plan increased premiums for overweight people by $500. The two plans were functionally equivalent, structured such that healthy-weight employees always paid $2000 per year in healthcare costs, and overweight employees always paid $2500 per year in healthcare costs.There were also two additional “stick” plans that resulted in a $2400 premium for overweight people.Participants were more likely to see the “stick” plans as punishment for being overweight and were less likely to endorse them.But they didn’t appear to differentiate between the three “stick” plans despite the $100 premium difference. Instead, they seemed to evaluate the plans on moral grounds, deciding that punishing someone for being overweight was wrong regardless of the potential savings to be had.The data showed that framing incentives in terms of penalties may have particular psychological consequences for affected individuals: People with higher body mass index (BMI) scores reported that they would feel particularly stigmatized and dissatisfied with their employer under the three “stick” plans.Another study placed participants in the decision maker’s seat to see if “stick” and “carrot” plans actually reflected different underlying attitudes. Participants who showed high levels of bias against overweight people were more likely to choose the “stick” plan, but provided different justification depending on whether their bias was explicit or implicit:”Participants who explicitly disliked overweight people were forthcoming about their decision, admitting that they chose a ‘stick’ policy on the basis of personal attitudes,” noted Tannenbaum. “Participants who implicitly disliked overweight people, in contrast, justified their decisions based on the most economical course of action.”Ironically, if they were truly focused on economic concerns they should have opted for the “carrot” plan, since it would save the company $100 per employee. Instead, these participants tended to choose the strategy that effectively punished overweight people, even in instances when the “stick” policy implied a financial cost to the company.Tannenbaum concludes that these framing effects may have important consequences across many different real-world domains:”In a broad sense, our research affects policymakers at large,” says Tannenbaum. “Logically equivalent policies in various domains — such as setting a default option for organ donation or retirement savings — can communicate very different messages, and understanding the nature of these messages could help policymakers craft more effective policy.”Co-authors on this research include Chad Valasek of the University of California, San Diego; Eric Knowles of New York University; and Peter Ditto of the University of California, Irvine.

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Reputation can trump money: Reputation concerns can encourage people to take part in real world ‘public-good’ programs

June 10, 2013 — Whether it’s an effort to increase recycling rates, reduce energy usage or cut carbon emissions, the conventional wisdom says that the best way to get people to do the right thing is to make it worth their while with cold, hard cash.But Harvard researchers say there may be an easier, cheaper way — by appealing to people’s reputation, not their wallets.Using enrollment of thousands of people in a California blackout prevention program as an experimental test bed, a team of researchers that included Erez Yoeli, a researcher at the Federal Trade Commission, Moshe Hoffman, a visiting researcher at Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED), David Rand, formerly a post-doctoral fellow at PED (now a professor at Yale University), and PED Director Martin Nowak, showed that while financial incentives boosted participation only slightly, making participation in the program observable — through the use of sign-up sheets posted in apartment buildings — produced a three-fold increase in sign-ups. Their work is described in a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”We wanted to see how observability compares to a cash incentive for getting people to act to benefit the common good. The answer is that observability is really dramatically better,” Rand said.Using a cash incentive of $25, the utility company sponsoring the program had seen participation increase from about three percent to four percent. When researchers made people’s participation observable, however, participation jumped from three to nine percent. To get the same result using a cash incentive, Yoeli estimated, the company may have had to offer every person as much as $175.Observability proved to be the key factor in the results, the researchers said, because it puts people’s reputation at stake, encouraging those who might not otherwise sign up to do so.”When people know it’s a cooperative effort, they feel peer pressure to take part,” Rand explained. “They think, ‘If I don’t do this, I’m going to look like a jerk.’ But if it’s not observable, then there’s no problem with not participating.””In fact, we think this is one reason why the Prius, for instance, is such a different-looking car,” said Hoffman. “The designers at Toyota seem to have intuitively had this idea, designing a car that didn’t look like any other car so your neighbors can tell you’re driving a hybrid.”You can also see this phenomenon when you go to vote, and you get an ‘I voted’ sticker,” he added. “Or when you go to give blood and you get a pin you can put on your backpack.”To directly demonstrate the effect of observability in a highly relevant real world setting, Yoeli and colleagues turned to a large-scale California blackout prevention program. As part of the program, residents were asked for permission to install a monitoring device on their air-conditioning system. If power demand spiked, the device would automatically adjust the air-conditioning temperature to reduce electricity demand and not overload the power grid.As part of their study, researchers randomly offered people one of two ways to sign up for the program.In the first, people received a mailer that described the program, and were encouraged to sign up in their apartment building using a unique identification number. …

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