Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: an employer neglects to follow proper safety procedures and a worker is subsequently injured.

Such was the case for an excavation worker in Longmeadow this summer. Davide Nascimento was working on the installation of a sewer line along Hazardville Road in Longmeadow, when a portion of roadway collapsed and broke a six-inch water main pipe causing an instant flood of the excavation and Nascimento to drown.

An inspection by the Springfield Area Office of U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed that Nascimento’s Ludlow-based employer A. Martin & Son Construction, Inc. did not take adequate measures to protect the water line against damage. Inspectors also found that the company also did not inspect the excavation for evidence of a situation that could result in a cave-in, such as damage from the previous night’s rainstorm that weakened excavation walls.

Springfield area director Mary Hoye said, “Mr. Nascimento would not have died had his employer followed proper procedures to identify and eliminate excavation hazards. Trenching and excavation operations are among the most dangerous in construction work. Employers must educate themselves and employees on trenching safeguards, including cave-in protection and having a competent person on-site to identify hazards and promptly correct any hazards.”

OSHA consequently cited A. Martin & Son Construction this month, for two serious violations of workplace safety standards. Each citation carries a proposed penalty of $7,000, the maximum fine for a serious violation.

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In Massachusetts, when a worker is injured on-the-job, he or she is generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is an insurance program designed to replace lost wages and cover the cost of medical expenses when an individual is injured in the course of employment. Certain medical costs may not be covered, depending on the worker’s jurisdiction. In Massachusetts, for example, workers are not eligible to receive benefits for scarring injuries to the arms, legs, and torso. However, due to a recent case involving a metal worker that was severely burned after falling into a vat of chemicals, this may soon change. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation  Attorney Today.

Sylbert Stewart, a 56-year-old Lowell resident, suffered second and third degree burns on both legs and feet while working at a factory in Belmont. Today, Stewart is permanently scarred and in constant pain. His injuries resulted in a 40% decrease in earnings, and he has received no compensation for the scarring injuries. In Massachusetts, disfiguring injuries must occur on the face, hands, and neck in order for the worker to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, recent advocacy from the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health members and allies may have had enough of an impact to change this requirement. In late October, a Senate bill was approved 36 to 1 that would allow scarring victims to receive compensation for their injuries, regardless of where on the body the injuries occurred. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Sean Garballey, would remove the face, hands, and neck requirement and would increase the victim’s compensation to 22.5 times the average weekly wage in Massachusetts. Continue reading

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces workplace safety regulations across the country. It is the employer’s responsibility to adhere to these regulations, but they don’t always take heed. Unfortunately, when employers violate these regulations, workers can get seriously injured and even die. An employee injured on-the-job is generally entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs.

Although employees may be eligible for Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured at work, the main goal is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. Employees often trust in, and rely on, OSHA to keep a close eye on their work environments. However, this is simply not always possible. OSHA does not have the funding to look into every accident or violation claim. To prevent major violations from slipping through the cracks, the agency implemented its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) to protect employees from exceptionally dangerous work hazards.

SVEP was created to replace OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP), which had proven quite ineffective. The goal with SVEP is to hold the most severe violators accountable. Possibly due to the failure of EEP, this new program has been receiving criticism from some stakeholders who claim that it continues to overlook the worst violators while simultaneously placing employers on the list that shouldn’t be on there. However, the 2013 self-review of SVEP found the program to be effective.

In order for an employer to be placed on the SVEP list, several criteria must be met. For starters, a) the violations have to be deliberate or repetitive, or failure to resolve the violations must result in hospitalization of at least three employees, or the death of one or more employees, b) there must be at least two serious injuries, such as falls or amputations, that resulted from the employer’s failure to comply with regulations, c) or there must be at least three violations and failure to correct the discharge of harmful chemicals. Continue reading

Discount retailer Big Lots Stores Inc. is facing $66,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an employee was injured at a store location in Danvers, Massachusetts. The store’s assistant manager wound up in the hospital after being struck by several falling boxes of patio furniture and other items. The boxes, which were being kept in the store’s rear stockroom, weighed up to 53 pounds each. If you’ve been injured at work, call a Boston Workers’ Compensation Attorney.

Danvers’ Big Lots Store Cited for Cluttered Aisles and Improperly Stacked Boxes

Following an investigation by OSHA, it was determined that the accident was a result of negligence. Boxes were stacked high throughout the storeroom and many were haphazardly placed in an unstable condition. The aisles of the storeroom presented another problem. They were cluttered with an array of items, including broken wooden pallets, boxes of stock, and pieces of cardboard. Conditions like these are dangerous for multiple reasons. The most obvious issue with clogged walkways is the inability to quickly exit the building in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Additionally, employees can trip and fall in such conditions, leading to broken bones, sprains, and many other injuries.

In response to the store’s conditions, and the injuries suffered as a result, Big Lots Stores Inc. received citations for two repeated violations. OSHA had cited the company previously in 2014 for similar issues at store locations in Warner Robins, Georgia, and West Babylon, New York. The subsequent citation was issued on October 2, 2015, and Big Lots Stores Inc. must respond appropriately within 15 days. To fulfill this requirement, the discount retailer must comply with the demands issued in the citation, request a conference with OSHA, or contest the citation and any associated penalties. Continue reading

In a recent and unprecedented MA workers’ compensation case, a hospital employee was injured at work after learning of an upcoming promotion, but cannot receive benefits based on the higher wage. According to an administrative judge, the employee’s promotion was an absolute certainty, and the worker’s comp benefits should be calculated based on the new wage. However, the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) reviewing board appealed that decision, stating that, “It is the position held at the time of the accident which governs, not some prospective plan in the future which may or may not come to fruition.”

Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Benefits Traditionally Based on Prior 52 Weeks Average Weekly Wage

The DIA’s decision has prompted a further investigation into the workers’ comp statute and how it addresses such out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. Provisions within the statute allow a hearing judge to deviate from using the employee’s prior 52 weeks in average weekly wage (AWW) calculations when unusual circumstances are present. Unfortunately for this employee, the DIA does not consider this situation to warrant deviation from the traditional rules. According to Administrative Law Judge, William Harpin, “The definition of AWW [cannot] be stretched so far as to cover wages that have yet to be earned in a position not yet held.”

Vikki Harris, a Radiology Service Representative at Partners Healthcare System, had been earning an AWW of $703.56 for approximately one year when she learned of her upcoming promotion to Patient Service Representative. Her new AWW was scheduled to be $730, which was similar to other workers in that position. Less than one week before her scheduled promotion, Harris slipped on a wet floor and fractured her kneecap. The fracture left Harris completely incapacitated and unable to work for months. Although Harris is no longer completely incapacitated, she is still physically unable to go back to work. In this particular case, the employee’s injury prevented her from earning a higher paycheck, but that hasn’t changed the outcome of the ruling.

Under §51 of the MA worker’s compensation statute, a worker’s AWW can be increased if he or she can prove that age or acquisition of skills would have most likely led to a higher AWW on the open labor market. However, according to the DIA, this particular case does not qualify under §51. “A simple promotion well into a career does not qualify as a likely wage increase under this statute,” said Harpin. Additionally, since the initial judge had already determined that Harris was entitled to the higher AWW, he never addressed whether or not §51 applied. Had Harris cross-appealed on such grounds, the outcome may have been different. Continue reading

Employees between the ages of 14 and 24 represent approximately 13% of the work force, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that at any given time, there is an average of 18 million young employees in the United States. The agency reports that, between 1998 and 2007, hospitals treated approximately 795,000 teenagers and young adults for work-related injuries.

Emergency departments receive visits from workers under 25 twice as often as older workers. In 2012 alone, 375 workers under the age of 24 died in a work-related accident. Of these, 29 were under the age of 18. Lack of experience and safety training, coupled with the types of work pursued, are contributing factors to this higher instance of injury and death. Early careers in food service, agriculture, and hospitality are the most common for this age group, and all of these occupations come with an increased risk. The United States Public Health Service has declared its goal to reduce occupational injury rates among teens by 10%, by the year 2020.

Lifting Objects

Approximately 950 workers’ compensation claims involving musculoskeletal injuries are filed annually in the United States. The most common cause of this type of injury is heavy or repetitive lifting. Many young workers obtain positions that require constant lifting of items such as boxes, construction materials, crates, buckets, and pallets. Grocery store clerks and stockers, employees in shipping and receiving, kitchen workers, and dishwashers are all examples of positions that rely on heavy lifting.

Handling Knives

The food service industry hires a large percentage of teens and college students. Dishwashers and cooks handle many different kinds of knives during the course of a shift. In the retail and grocery industries, clerks and stockers use sharp objects to open boxes. Supermarkets often hire inexperienced youth to operate food slicers. These scenarios have a high potential for cuts, lacerations, and even more severe injuries. Approximately 130 cases of a thumb or finger amputation are reported every year among employees under 24. Annually, an estimated 525 young workers’ compensation claims are a direct result of knife mishaps. Continue reading

Every day in the United States, overexertion in the workplace results in thousands of trips to the doctor or emergency room. Overexertion can occur in any type of occupation, from seemingly benign office positions to highly physical construction jobs. Long-term effects can lead to temporary or permanent disability and, consequently, the inability to perform job duties. Even when physical symptoms are not debilitating, victims of chronic conditions often experience some level of depression.

The National Safety Council reports overexertion as the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims in the United States. Some of the most commonly recognized examples of overexertion include carpal tunnel syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders, often referred to as repetitive stress injuries. However, two examples of overexertion that are regularly overlooked are fatigue and dehydration.

Fatigue as a Workplace Hazard

Federal and state laws require employers to provide certain periods of rest for employees, depending on the length of the shift and the type of work performed. Without these necessary breaks, the impact of both mental and physical fatigue can become a workplace hazard. One of the most dangerous effects of fatigue is the inability to think clearly and react quickly and appropriately. This is especially important in occupations that require operating heavy machinery and driving, and for medical professionals and emergency personnel responsible for making life altering decisions. Research shows that employees who work in shifts have are six times more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related accident.

Certain causes of fatigue may be out of an employer’s control, such as detrimental sleeping patterns or the unhealthy lifestyle of an employee. However, the risk of fatigue is commonly increased by certain work-related factors including:

  • Excessive mental of physical exertion without appropriate access to food, hydration, or rest during the workday
  • Work scheduling that goes against the body’s natural bio-rhythms
  • Excessive and continuous cold or hot work environment
  • Monotonous or strenuous workload

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe, healthy work environment. It is important that employers are consistently aware of potential cases of fatigue among employees, as well as any contributing factors. Workplace practices should be managed to minimize the onset of fatigue and maximize healthy work habits. Continue reading

A construction worker passed away this Friday in the second fatal worksite accident in Taunton, Massachusetts in the past three weeks. According to preliminary reports, law enforcement officials were called to a worksite at Myles Standish Industrial Park at approximately 8:50 AM when an individual notified them of a worker with “life-threatening injuries”. The victim has not yet been identified pending family notification.

The Taunton Police Department, who responded to the scene, posted a statement online stating that, “Upon arrival it was determined that an adult male had succumbed to his injuries and was deceased.” The extent and nature of the individual’s injuries have not been disclosed at this time. Law enforcement officials have not indicated the nature of the accident that caused the fatal injuries to the worker.

In addition to the Taunton Police Department, the Taunton Fire Department as well as personnel from the AMR Medical responded to the scene in an effort to save the individual’s life. The worksite, which is located at Charles F. Colton Road, will now face an investigation in an effort to determine what events led to the worker’s death. According to reports, law enforcement officials have remained on scene to continue their investigation. The accident occurred outside of an 800,000 square foot wine and liquor warehouse facility belonging to the Martingnetti Company. The facility spans approximately 115 acres along the Charles F. Colton Road. Representatives from the company have not issued regarding the incident a statement at this time. Continue reading

A building collapse injured six people in Smithfield, Rhode Island early this morning. The building, which had been under construction at the time of the collapse, is property of Bryant University. The steel framework for the structure had already been installed, and the breakdown occurred when these steel beams collapsed forward. The exact cause and nature of the accident is currently under investigation at this time.

Smithfield Fire Chief Robert W. Seltzer stated in initial reports that the department had received a call from the Bryant University construction site at approximately 8:15 AM. The supervisor of the construction site had alerted authorities after the structure collapsed and trapped six workers under the steel beams. The Smithfield Fire and Police Departments both quickly responded to the call, but upon their arrival they decided to call for additional backup. Authorities responding to the scene issued a Level 1 response, which automatically dispatches 5 additional units to aid efforts at the scene of the accident.

The Smithfield Fire and Police Department were able to successfully free the six workers that had become trapped under the steel structure following the collapse. All six individuals were transported to Rhode Island Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Bryant University spokeswoman Elizabeth O’Neil issued a statement following the accident indicating that there were no students or faculty present in the area of the collapse and that the university was cooperating in the investigation. O’Neil went on to say that the accident that took place today would not have an effect on the opening day of classes which are slated to start on September 8th. Continue reading

Six construction workers were injured early Tuesday morning when part of a building at Bryant University suddenly collapsed.

The indoor practice facility, part of the university’s Smithfield, Rhode Island campus, was under construction. At around 8:15 WCVB reports, the building gave way, trapping several workers under beams. Fortunately, all six workers sustained only minor injuries. The 78,000 square foot building has been under construction since May 2015 and was slated to open in 2016. AZ Corp. Construction Management is currently overseeing the building’s construction.

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