Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 4,821 workers were killed due to work-related accidents and illnesses in 2014. That is the equivalent to 13 deaths per day. Latino and Hispanic workers accounted for a disproportionately large number of those fatalities, with 804 on-the-job deaths. It is common knowledge that construction jobs are among the most dangerous in the country. But what other occupations carry a risk of serious injury and death? Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

The “Fatal Four” of Construction Jobs

About one-fifth of all worker deaths occur in the construction industry. Within these occupations, the top causes of death are falls, electrocution, being struck by an object, and getting caught in or between an object, in that order. These four types of construction-related fatalities are ominously known as the “Fatal Four”. With so much construction in Boston and throughout Massachusetts it the number of work related accidents is higher here than in many other states.

Beyond Construction

Although construction workers account for the largest portion of on-the-job fatalities, other industries are actually more dangerous. Fishing and logging, for example, are associated with an extraordinarily high rate of death. .

Deadliest Occupations

Below is a list of the most dangerous occupations, in order of their risk of death.

  • Logging
  • Mining
  • Iron and Steel Workers
  • Roofers
  • Garbage Collectors
  • Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Truck Drivers
  • Construction Laborers
  • Police Officers

 

Logging is particularly dangerous because it involves spending long days outside, sometimes in extreme weather, working with heavy machinery and falling trees, often at high altitudes. More than half of all logging injuries are the result of being struck by an object. Along with logging, many other jobs on the dangerous list, including mining, farming, and working with steel and iron, share many risks associated with construction – long hours spent outdoors, and working in close proximity with heavy machinery.

Law enforcement occupations and airline pilots also carry a higher-than-average risk of fatality, but not because of heavy machinery. Police officers have an increased risk of injury due to violent acts. Transportation accidents, including crashes, are a leading cause of fatality for airline pilots. The risk of being seriously injured or killed in a work-related accident is decreased dramatically by taking proper precautions before reporting to work every day. Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment, appropriate safety gear and tools, and adequate training. Continue reading

In recent years, group health insurers and Third Party Administrators (TPAs) have been looking for inventive ways to provide better and less expensive health services to their customers.  This comes at a time when the nation has been spending billions on medical and insurance expenses for employees injured at work.  Two Thought Leadership papers were published from PTPN, a national network for independent rehabilitation specialists, that study the positive effects of physical therapy in terms of collective health and workers’ compensation cases.  PTPN has led the rehabilitation business since 1985, innovating original payer contracting, quality assurance, outcomes measurement, and pay-for-outcomes (P40) programs.  The network includes hundreds of therapy office locations and thousands of physical, occupational, and speech therapists across the nation.

The two papers, one focusing on workers’ compensation payers and one regarding group health organizations, emphasize how innovation can decrease costs of patients while delivering better outcomes for patients.  Michael Weinper PT, DPT, M.P.H., and president of PTPN says that these papers illustrate ways to “improve the delivery of health services, but also deliver better outcomes for a wide range of patients at a lower cost.”  However, there also needs to be ample providers of physical therapy.  Studies have shown that introducing physical therapy early on in a patient’s treatment program can greatly improve patient outcomes, reduce the use of pain medication, improve patient satisfaction, reduce the number of re-admissions and lower medical and insurance costs.  A few main key points should be taken away from the PTPN paper, including:

  • A 2015 Health and Service Research Journal study showed that treating patients first with physical therapy resulted having average costs $4,793 less than patients who were treated with imaging first.
  • A 2012 Spine study showed that swift recommendation of patients from primary care physicians to physical therapy resulted in reduced use of advanced imaging, surgery, injections, and prescription pain medications resulting in average savings of $2,736.23 less for those who received early physical therapy.
  • Workers’ Comp Research Institute reported that 65 to 85 percent of injured workers are prescribed an opioid for pain management. However, almost 90 percent of these injuries would be better treated with over-the-counter pain medication and physical therapy.

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Construction is already one of the most dangerous jobs, and extreme weather increases the risk of serious injury or death. Ice and snow in winter pose obvious risks, but what about extreme heat? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 100 outdoor workers died as a result of heat-related illness between 2008 and 2014. From dehydration to heat exhaustion, the risks can be dramatically reduced by following the tips below. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

When the sun is blazing and temperatures are at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it is crucial to take proper precautions against heat-related illness. It is an employer’s duty to provide a safe working environment for employees and contractors. If a supervisor neglects to do this, or prevents you from taking necessary water breaks or time out of direct sun in periods of high heat, he or she may be found negligent. If you suffer any work-related injuries, including those related to excessive heat, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Protect Yourself from the Heat

Hydrate. When temperatures are high, it is essential to drink plenty of water throughout the day. It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated, but during extreme heat, it can be the difference between life and death. If water is too boring for you, try an electrolyte-infused beverage such as Gatorade, or add a slice of lemon. But avoid designer energy drinks at all costs. Drinks such as Red Bull and Monster Energy provide little hydration, are full of sugar and caffeine, and have been associated with heart arrhythmia, heart failure, and death. If you simply need something sweet, it’s OK to drink lemonade and other citrus beverages, but try and dilute them with water.

Pack a healthy lunch. Your choice of food can be just as important as your choice of drink. For starters, snacking on junk food all day might hurt more than just your waistline. The excess salt will make it harder to stay hydrated, and the high fat content and preservatives can add stress to your body in high-heat situations. A light, nutritious lunch, especially with hydrating fruits and vegetables, is best.

Work at a cooler time of day, if possible. Obviously, it’s not always feasible to avoid the hottest part of the day – between 10 am and 2 pm – but on extremely hot days, it may be wise to start earlier, take a longer lunch break, and work later. Supervisors should be on the lookout for signs of fatigue when temps soar above 90, and breaks should be given more frequently than normal.

Stay in the shade. If you can, work in shaded areas. In extreme heat, use umbrellas or canopies wherever possible, even if only as a temporary respite from direct sun exposure. Supervisors should provide sunblock to all crew members who request it. Consider wearing a wide-brim hard hat, or purchase a visor that can be attached to your existing hat. There are several other hot-weather clothing items, such as nape protectors and vented vests, that may offer some protection and relief.

Listen to your body’s signals, and look out for one another. Strange behavior is often a sign of heat exhaustion or other heat-related illness. If a co-worker appears disoriented or lethargic, or if he or she begins stumbling or slurring speech, get help immediately. Heat exhaustion is dangerous enough on it’s own, let alone in close proximity to heavy machinery and tools. Likewise, if you begin to ‘feel funny’, fatigued, extremely thirsty, or dizzy, ask for help right away. Continue reading

Two weeks ago, a construction worker working at the Hartford Hospital site in Hartford, Connecticut fell three stories, a total of more than 60 feet, when the scaffolding he was working on collapsed.  Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials says that the worker, a 47 year old employee of Total Wall Systems Inc., was on a “rolling scaffold” when it fell off a building on site around 10:45 AM.  A scaffold is a temporary structure used during construction or maintenance to provide workers with support.  Rolling scaffolds are different in that they have wheels that give them mobility.  The worker was unconscious after the fall.  Another construction work on scene, Bruce Frosolone, stated that the collapse made a loud noise that resembled the sound of debris being thrown in a dumpster.  He was unaware that anyone was injured until medics began to show up.

This kind of accident is all too common for construction workers in Massachusetts and throughout New England.  The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that there are almost 2.3 million construction workers in the United States with about 65 percent of these workers working on scaffolding.  This means that 1.5 million construction workers are on scaffolding every year.  Figures show that on average there are 60 deaths and more than 4,500 injuries that are sustained while working on scaffolding annually.  These accidents are almost always avoidable.  There are many safety regulations in place that instruct contractors and management in ways to prevent tragic injuries.  According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 72 percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident to the planking or support giving way, to the employee slipping, or to the employee being struck by a falling object.  With compliance to OSHA standards, many of these accidents can be avoided.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), falls are a leading cause of traumatic death on the job as a result of “improper installation or operation of scaffold equipment, defective scaffold equipment, insufficient worker safety training, and failure to provide or use personal fall protection equipment.”  OSHA emphasizes the necessity that workers are informed of the hazards of their job and learn prevention measures.  OSHA also has strict regulations that are in place to help prevent serious injury and death from occurring.  There are important personal safety precautions to take as well.  These include: Continue reading

Cases of faulty anchor bolts and concrete collapses are not unheard of.  These materials are used in almost every  Massachusetts building, tunnel, bridge, and piece of infrastructure because they can be so secure and durable.  However, if improperly constructed, malfunctions can occur that can cause serious injuries or fatalities.  Common causes of anchor bolt failures leading to concrete collapses are improperly securing the bolts due to poor training, insufficient supervision of workers, or plain negligence.  It is not uncommon for construction workers to skimp on protocol in order to save time and money.  Although workers may not realize the amount of damage that can be caused by taking short cuts, lives have been lost due to this kind of carelessness.

Anchor bolt failures can occur during or after construction.  Serious injuries can result from these failures such as bleeding, head/back/neck/spinal cord injury, amputation, paralysis, and death.  To ensure these injuries are minimized, it is important to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines when working with anchor bolts to secure pieces of concrete.  Such guidelines include “All columns shall be anchored by a minimum of four anchor rods (anchor bolts)” and “Prior to the erection of a column, the controlling contractor shall provide written notification to the steel erector if there has been any repair, replacement or modification of the anchor rods of that column”.  These and other requirements implemented by OSHA are put in place in order to ensure anchor bolts are correctly installed and maintained.  Bolts that have been repaired, replaced, or field-modified improperly have been responsible for collapses of concrete slabs and consequent injuries and deaths.

Therefore, proper maintenance of anchor bolts is also crucial to protect the longevity of the components and the safety of bystanders.  There are a few types of evaluation procedures to test the integrity of the anchor bolts, both non-destructive testing and semi-destructive testing.  The three main techniques typically used are 1) Acoustic impact, in which the bolt is struck by a hammer and the tone determines its condition, 2) Ultrasonic metal flaw detection, essentially passing a mechanical stress wave over the bolt and the way the wave is reflected or transmitted determines the condition of the bolt, and 3) Excavation and discovery, which bolts are cleaned of corrosion and an instrument called a vernier caliper is used to determine the diameter of the bolt.  Once these tests have been performed, there are several sub sequential steps that need to be taken.  The condition of the anchor bolt determines the next course of action.  Possible options following anchor bolt integrity tests include, leaving the bolt alone (if it is in good condition), repairing existing bolts, relocating bolts, or complete anchor bolt extraction and reinstallation.  Continue reading

Every seven seconds, a worker is injured in the United States. That’s 12,900 workers per day, or 4.7 million per year. And that figure is expected to climb as the country’s workforce continues to grow. Injuries are especially prevalent among younger workers who are just beginning a new job. According to Rich Ives, vice president of workers’ compensation for Travelers insurance, “More than one-quarter of injuries occur in the first year of employment.” Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

In a recent report released by Travelers, the insurance company set out to determine how and why certain injuries occur on-the-job. The “Injury Impact Report” looked at a total of 1.5 million workers’ comp claims over a five-year period. Workers’ comp insurance pays for work-related injuries and illnesses, therefore, it is an excellent barometer for injuries, especially serious ones.

Sprains, Strains and Bruises

Of course, injuries are most prevalent in occupations such as construction and excavation, but they can occur in any field. In fact, the most common injuries were sprains, strains, bruises, and inflammation, and they were due to deceptively simple tasks, such as lifting and carrying objects. Nearly one-third of the 1.5 million claims were a result of these types of injuries. The next most common injuries? Slips, trips, and falls. After those, being struck by an object was most common. Not surprisingly, accidents involving falls from high places were most common among construction workers. Claims for eye injuries were also quite high in construction and manufacturing jobs.

Which injuries result in the most time off work?

With an average of 91 days off-the-job, inflammation causes the most lost work time. Fractures came in at a close second with 78 days of missed work. Sprains and strains result in about 57 off-the-job days.

Which injuries cost the most?

The least common but most expensive injuries were major injuries, such as amputations and electric shock. An amputation costs more than $100,000, limb dislocation is slightly over $97,000, and electric shock claims cost about $55,000. Although strains and sprains result in more claims, they cost much less. The average sprain or strain only costs about $17,000.

What is the overall cost of injuries to U.S. businesses?

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), annual injuries cost U.S. employers about $170 billion. Currently, about 60% of all workers’ comp costs are related to medical care, but that number is projected to rise to 70% by 2019. Continue reading

 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about three million workplace injuries occur annually. Not all of these injuries are serious, but more than one-third are serious enough to result in time away from work. The BLS publishes an annual Workplace Safety Index, highlighting the most common on-the-job injuries in that specific year. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

The Most Common Massachusetts Work-Related Injuries and How to Prevent Them

  • Falls from high places: Although these accidents are most common in construction-related jobs, they can occur anywhere. Improperly maintained or faulty scaffolding and ladders are common causes of serious falls. Unfortunately, falls from high places are also one of the most dangerous types of workplace accidents, often resulting in head trauma, spinal cord injuries, and serious fractures. To prevent falls, always use safety harnesses when necessary, ensure that stairwells have adequate lighting, and make sure that equipment is regularly inspected and maintained.
  • Overexertion: This is one of the most common workplace injuries and it often affects the lower back. Overexertion can be caused by using excessive effort when lifting, pulling, pushing, or carrying objects. To avoid straining your lower back, or any other part of your body, always utilize proper lifting techniques, ask for help from other employees if an object is too heavy, and stop immediately if you feel any soreness or pain.
  • Slip and fall accidents: Although falls from high places result in more serious injuries and deaths, slipping, tripping, and falling on a level surface can still be extremely dangerous. People are seriously injured and die in slip and fall accidents every year. Even minor falls can result in torn ligaments and sprains. More serious falls can cause head trauma and fractures. Prevent slip and fall injuries by ensuring that walkways are well lit and clear of clutter and debris.
  • Being struck by an object: When improperly shelved materials, such as heavy boxes, equipment, or construction materials, fall from scaffolding or shelves above, they can cause serious injury and death. Prevent bruises, lacerations, and brain injuries by always making sure shelved items are properly secured. The use of hard hats in construction areas can also dramatically reduce the risk of serious head injuries.
  • Repetitive motions: Although injuries from repetitive motions may not be as dangerous as, for example, falls from high places, they can still be incredibly debilitating. When workers consistently perform the same task, such as data entry or stuffing envelopes, they may experience torn ligaments, sprains, and other conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions may prevent a worker from returning to work for an extended period of time. Avoid repetitive motion injuries by taking frequent breaks, using ergonomic equipment at your desk, and maintaining proper posture.

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In April, events across Massachusetts paid tribute to the 63 MA workers killed on-the-job in 2015. In addition to honoring the victims and their families, ‘Workers’ Memorial Day’ also served to highlight worker safety in general. According to Jeff Newton, membership and communications coordinator for the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), “Sixty-three workers in the State of Massachusetts lost their lives to dangerous jobs last year.” Newton went on to say, “One thing we want to make the public aware of is that dangerous jobs are still claiming far too many workers in the state.” Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Dying for Work in Massachusetts

MassCOSH recently released a report titled “Dying for Work in Massachusetts” that calls attention to the problems surrounding worker safety. The report details the ways in which workers were killed, and it addresses increasing safety concerns for immigrant workers specifically. According to the report, immigrant workers have a significantly higher risk of being fatally injured in a work-related accident.

Workers’ Memorial Day

Every April, Workers’ Memorial Day celebrates the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. At the main event at the State House in Boston, and supporting events in Springfield and Northampton, speakers educate and inform the public about workplace safety. “And what we will be doing is reading the names of the workers killed aloud, and we will be having labor leaders speak as well as having family members who lost a loved one speak as to why workplace safety needs to be a higher public priority,” Newton said.

20% of Nationwide Worker Deaths are Construction Related

More than 4,600 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2014, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Of those deaths, about 20% occurred in the construction industry, one of the most dangerous industries in the country. Although construction jobs are inherently dangerous, the risk of serious injury and death can be dramatically reduced when employers follow safety precautions, provide adequate training and supervision to workers, and perform routine maintenance and inspections on all equipment. In addition, workers should always be provided with proper safety gear, such as harnesses, safety goggles, hard hats, and any other equipment necessary for the specific job. Continue reading

Since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been held every April to increase public awareness about a commonly downplayed health problem. Stress can be both physical and emotional, and much of our stress is directly related to work environment. Stress can result in sleep deprivation, obesity, emotional problems, and can make us more vulnerable to physical injury.  Massachusetts employers should take note. Stressed workers cost 50 percent more in annual health costs, and they are more likely to be less productive and disengaged. According to the American Institute of Stress, job-related stress costs employers more than $300 billion every year. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Provide Workplace Wellness Benefits

Exercise and a healthy lifestyle go a long way toward combating workplace stress. Employers can incentivize workers to be healthy by offering discounted gym memberships, hosting healthy eating / exercise challenges, or even adding an on-site gym.

A man was taken to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries on Monday morning, following a small explosion at a Tewksbury work site. The Tewksbury Fire and Police departments responded immediately. According to the Tewksbury Fire Marshall, the explosion resulted from a fire in a box truck that contained two power washing units. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

The incident, which occurred around 8:30 a.m., was heard by parishioners in the nearby Church of St. William. According to St. William’s Rev. Dwight Hoeberechts, the distant explosion sounded like a “little loud boom.”

“It got my attention, it got all of our attentions that something happened,” Hoeberechts said, “One person thought it was a door that just slammed in the church, but I said it was more than just a door slamming.”

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