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.

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.”

In a 2015 study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction-related fatalities increased nearly six percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. In fact, at 874 reported deaths, 2014 had the highest total since 2008. Many of these fatalities occur in major cities, such as Boston and New York, due to the nature of building projects in these areas. Skyscrapers are being erected at staggering rates, and the heavy machinery and extreme heights inherent to these projects come with great risk. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

According to the BLS, Nearly One-Fifth of Workplace Fatalities Involve Construction Workers

Construction has long held the title of most dangerous occupation, but certain aspects of construction work are riskier than others. Excavating, for example, is one of the more dangerous types of construction due to the risk of ground collapse. Roofing and other high-elevation work always comes with a risk of falling, the most common cause of construction-related fatalities.

A trench collapse that occurred Tuesday morning in Halifax is under investigation by OSHA. A 50-year-old landscaper with Evergreen Landscaping Company became trapped when the trench collapsed. Paul Brown of Plymouth, and several other workers, were inspecting a septic tank when the incident occurred. Paramedics and a rescue team, including the Halifax Fire Department, worked for several hours to free Brown from the trench. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Rescue Workers Provided Intravenous Fluids and a Heater to Prevent Hypothermia

According to firefighters, the rescue was especially difficult because they couldn’t use sophisticated equipment to free the victim. “It comes down to little army shovels and 5 gallon buckets. (We) can’t use big machinery because vibrations will cause more sand to collapse on top of the victim,” said Halifax Fire Chief Jason Vizeiros.  While Brown was still trapped in the 8-foot deep trench, he couldn’t move his legs but he was able to speak with the rescue workers. In order to protect Brown from becoming hypothermic, paramedics administered intravenous fluids and provided a heater to keep him warm.

Once freed from the trench, Brown was taken by ambulance to the landing pad of a medical helicopter. He was immediately flown to Boston Medical Center, where he remains in good condition. The victim was lucky. Trench collapses often result in serious injuries and death. “They don’t always end this way, so it is definitely a happy ending,” said Duxubry Fire Department Chief Kevin Nord.

Trenching is a High-Risk Occupation

Trenching is actually one of the most dangerous jobs around. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 271 workers died in trenching collapses between 2000 and 2006, and 488 trenching-related fatalities occurred between 1992 and 2000. Most trenching hazards are preventable and easy to recognize. It is the employer’s responsibility to promote safe work practices, and to provide a safe working environment, protective equipment, and adequate training.

OSHA Standards for Trenching Safety

  • When workers are exposed to danger from moving ground, trench walls must be guarded by a shoring system, ground slope, or equivalent means.
  • When ground material is soft or unstable, sides of trenches 5-feet deep or deeper must be shored, sloped, braced, sheeted, or supported by equivalent means.
  • Trenches adjacent to backfilled areas or prone to vibrations from highway traffic, railroads, or heavy-machine operation must be given additional bracing and shoring.

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A work accident in South Dennis last week is currently under investigation by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). On March 7, a South Yarmouth man became trapped in machinery while on-the-job at Robert Childs Inc. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

William Santo, the 56-year-old worker, is now listed in good condition, said Peg Holda, a spokeswoman for the South Shore Hospital. Santo was working on a machine used for hauling dumpsters when he became trapped between two parts of the heavy equipment. According to Dennis police Sgt. Thomas Murray, a co-worker used another machine to free Santo. Immediately following the accident, firefighters rushed Santo to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. He was quickly transferred to South Shore’s trauma center, where he was initially listed in fair condition.

Violations May Result in Fines and Citations for Robert Childs Inc.

In response to the incident, OSHA is conducting an inspection of Robert Childs Inc., said Ted Fitzgerald, regional public affairs director for the U.S. Department of Labor. During the inspection, OSHA will determine if workplace safety violations were a factor in last week’s accident. If OSHA uncovers violations, the findings may result in citations and fines for Robert Childs Inc. The company services, sells, and rents heavy machinery, primarily to construction and landscaping companies. They also have a parts division.

In a statement released last week, company president Charles Childs said, “We regret the unfortunate accident involving our employee. The proper authorities have been notified and the accident is under investigation. All safety measures have been assessed. We wish a speedy recovery to our valued longtime employee.”

OSHA Workplace Safety Standards

OSHA requires employers to follow certain guidelines and standards in an effort to maintain a safe working environment for employees. Here are a few examples of these requirements:

  • Provide a workplace reasonably free from hazards.
  • Inform employees of applicable health and safety standards.
  • Upon the start of employment and at least annually, inform employees of the location of their medical records.
  • Display the official OSHA ‘rights and responsibilities’ poster in a prominent place.
  • Create a hazard communication program that includes an employee training program.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it provides a guideline of the core standards set by OSHA. For example, providing a ‘workplace reasonably free from hazards’ includes keeping aisles and walkways free from clutter and debris, work areas well lit, and outside walkways free of snow and ice. However, any workplace danger that results in an accident or injury can fall under this category, even if not specifically mentioned. Continue reading

According to the Massachusetts Nursing Association, healthcare workers in the Bay State are being injured at a notably higher rate than those in other states and other industries. The majority of these injuries are occurring because known solutions aren’t being implemented, or are being administered incorrectly. For example, although it is widely known in the industry that patient-handling equipment should be use to move patients from bed to wheelchair – or vice versa – many workers opt not to use the equipment. In some cases, this is a conscious decision, but in many cases, it is a result of inadequate employee training. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

1,000 Healthcare Worker Injuries Reported Annually in Massachusetts

In a recent presentation by the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, the department said that approximately 21,500 workdays are lost every year due to about 1,000 employee injuries. Despite these staggering numbers, only 44% of MA hospitals have patient-handling policies intended to prevent worker injuries. When asked why, more than 70% of employers said the most significant barrier to implementing such policies is lack of time.

According to Beth Piknick, a past president of the MA Nurses Association, the reluctance of hospitals to implement necessary safety procedures suggests the need for a legislative solution. And Piknick has personal experience, having suffered a career-ending injury over two decades ago. Since then, she has been advocating for improvements in patient-handling practices.

Unsafe Patient-Handling Practices to Blame for Thousands of Injuries

A statewide law requiring safe handling is currently pending before the legislature. The policies in the pending bill follow the recommended guidelines as outlined by DPH in its most recent report. “Implementing these policies and using this equipment will save millions of dollars and more thousands of lost work days for workers injured from unsafe patient handling practices,” Picknick said.

What Other Workplace Hazards Affect Healthcare Workers?

Patient-handling injuries aren’t the only hazards faced by healthcare workers. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants have the highest rates of injury, but any healthcare worker has a high risk of on-the-job injury. Potential hazards include:

  • Biological hazards
  • Chemical exposure
  • Drug hazards
  • Anesthetic gas exposure
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Respiratory hazards
  • Exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • X-ray hazards

In fact, according to OSHA, more workers are injured in the healthcare industry than any other. A total of 653,900 cases of injury and illness were reported by the healthcare and social assistance industry in 2010. That is more than any other other private industry sector, and a whopping 152,000 cases more than manufacturing, the next highest industry sector. Continue reading

If you live in Boston – or any city – construction cranes are a common sight. Unfortunately, crane collapses are also relatively common. According to the United States Department of Labor, there are approximately 90 crane-related fatalities in the US every year. The most recent occurred in February in Lower Manhattan, when a 565-foot crane collapsed, killing a man who was sitting in his parked car. In many of these accidents, high winds, inadequate training, or improperly erected cranes are a factor. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

OSHA’s 12-Point Safety Checklist for Crane Use

In addition to collapses related to high winds, crane fatalities can also occur when the crane’s boom comes in contact with power lines, when the crane is improperly assembled or disassembled, or when workers are struck by the boom or load. OSHA has created a 12-point safety checklist for construction workers who will be working on or around cranes.

  1. Only qualified and highly-trained employees should operate a crane.
  2. The crane must be inspected by a designated person prior to each use.
  3. The crane must always be placed on a stable, level surface.
  4. Pins should never be unlocked or removed during assembly and disassembly unless the sections are secure and blocked.
  5. The outriggers and barricade accessible areas must be completely extended if they are inside the swing radius of the crane.
  6. Always keep at least 10 feet of clearance between the crane and any electric power lines.
  7. Conduct a thorough inspection of rigging prior to use.
  8. Use the correct load chart based on the current configuration, load weight, and lift path of the crane.
  9. When making lifts, avoid exceeding the load chart capacity.
  10. Before delivering a load, raise it a few inches, hold, verify, and run tests of the entire brake system.
  11. Avoid moving loads over workers at all times.
  12. Follow instructions given by the manufacturer, and all signals.

Crane safety boils down to these three essentials; safe conditions, well-maintained equipment, and proper training. Unfortunately, site conditions that appear safe can actually be riddled with hidden dangers, such as unstable ground and power lines. According to Tom Barth, owner of Barth Crane Inspections of South Carolina, “Site conditions cannot be assumed. They must be verified by an engineer. However, it is the crane operator’s responsibility to ask the site superintendent about any hazards such as utilities, fresh un-compacted fill and more. They may not be recognizable to the eye but could pose a threat of ground failure.” Continue reading

In August of 2015, a Massachusetts worker was killed when an aerial lift he was operating tipped over. Kevin Miranda was operating the lift when it tipped, ejecting him from the operator’s basket and throwing him 16 feet through the air. Following the accident, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an investigation of Miranda’s employer, Skyline Contracting and Roofing Corp. of Taunton. Just this month, the administration determined that his death could have been prevented if Skyline had adhered to federal and industry safety standards. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

At the time of the accident, the aerial lift’s boom was extended to a height of 45 feet. OSHA inspectors noted several safety violations, including that the lift was placed on uneven ground and the lanyard on Miranda’s fall protection system was not attached to the lift. OSHA also concluded that Skyline had failed to train Miranda to recognize such a hazard, an important requirement of the agency’s standards.  As such, Skyline was cited for one serious violation and two willful violations, totaling $102,900. The company must comply with the penalties and citations and meet with OSHA’s area director within 15 days from the receipt of the citations, or contest the findings within that time frame.

“This incident and the needless death that resulted were preventable. Kevin Miranda’s employer was well aware of the necessary safety requirements, yet disregarded them,” said OSHA’s area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, Kenneth Shedden. “Safety standards exist for a good reason: to prevent incidents such as this, and the deaths and injuries that can result. Employers must know and adhere to all applicable standards. The lives and well-being of their employees depend on it.”

Falls Are Number One Cause of Construction-Related Fatalities

According to OSHA, falls are the top cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Fatal falls are often the result of unstable working surfaces, and / or failure to use appropriate fall protection equipment. Both were factors in Miranda’s death. If the lift had been placed on stable ground and Miranda’s fall protection system had been properly attached to the operator’s basket or boom, he might still be alive today. Continue reading

High winds are to blame for a deadly crane collapse in New York City Friday morning. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, workers were attempting to secure the crane at the time of the incident. Shortly before 8:30 am, the massive piece of construction equipment collapsed, crashing into several parked cars and slamming into buildings before landing on Worth Street. The 565-foot crane stretched two blocks from Hudson to Church Street, a usually bustling area of Lower Manhattan. The collapse left one person dead and three people injured. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Police identified the fatally-wounded victim as 38-year-old David Wichs of the Upper West SIde. Wichs was in a parked car when the crane collapsed on top of it. There were also three injuries as a result of the accident; two serious and one minor. A 73-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman were both taken to area hospitals with head wounds from falling debris. Their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

It’s a Miracle That More People Were Not Harmed

Considering that the accident occurred during the normally busy morning commute, it is incredible that more people were not seriously injured. Mayor de Blasio attributes this good fortune to the efforts of workers on the ground who were keeping people away from the area while other workers were securing the crane. “This is a very, very sad incident — we’ve lost a life,” said Mr. de Blasio, adding that, “It was something of a miracle there wasn’t more impact.”

The crane had just been inspected by the city’s Buildings Department on Thursday. The inspection was conducted as part of the process to approve an extension of its current length.  According to Mr. de Blasio, when winds reached 20 miles per hour on Friday morning, crews began to clear the streets and secure the machinery. The crawler crane, which was being used to replace air-conditioning units on top of the former Western Union building, is supposed to be secured in winds of 25 mph or above. In response to the accident, the city has ordered the securing of an additional 376 crawler cranes and 43 tower cranes.

Following the collapse, emergency responders searched cars for people who could be trapped and gas lines for leaks. Several nearby leaks were identified, however, the levels do not appear to be dangerous. As a precaution, gas in the immediate area has been turned off and the situation is being closely monitored. Continue reading

There’s no question that some jobs are more dangerous than others, but occupations that appear perfectly safe often have a higher percentage of injured employees. The top five workplace injuries can occur in almost any occupation, from factory jobs to desk jobs. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Overexertion

Overexertion, the number one cause of work-related injuries, is typically the result of ordinary tasks gone wrong.  Lifting, pulling, or pushing an object improperly can throw a worker’s body seriously out of whack, even leading to permanent disability. The best way to avoid overexertion injuries is by approaching the aforementioned movements carefully, and by learning the right way to perform these tasks. For example, always lift heavy objects by keeping a wide base of support and squatting down, bending only at the knees and hips. Don’t twist your back as you lift the object. More importantly, keep yourself fit and don’t take on tasks that you are physically unable to do.

Same Level Falls

Same level falls are the second most common workplace injury. These include trip and slip injuries, and can happen anywhere. The condition of the floor is the most important factor to consider, therefore, it’s exceedingly important to report unsafe conditions in the workplace. Same level falls may result from:

  • Loose carpeting
  • Uneven flooring
  • Wet or waxed floors
  • Cords and cables on the floor
  • Floor transition areas
  • Clutter or debris in walkways
  • Poor lighting

Employees can lower their risk of same level falls by wearing appropriate footwear and keeping shoelaces tied. Business owners should ensure that flooring is safe, and that traffic patterns in the workplace are free of clutter.

Struck by an Object

Getting hit or struck by something is the third most common workplace injury. If you work in construction or another industry with falling debris, such as factory work, it’s crucial to wear a hard hat at all times. Correct storage of items on shelves, proper material stacking, and keeping the workplace free of clutter can reduce the likelihood of falling objects.

Falls to Lower Level

For most workers, falls to a lower level generally involve falling down stairwells or off ladders. For construction jobs and similar occupations, high-level falls can involve falling off scaffolding. Many of these falls result in serious injury or death.

To mitigate the risk of falling from high places, stairwells should have good lighting and handrails should be installed. The stairs themselves should have non-slippery surfaces. Obviously, objects should not be stored on the stairs, and workers should take special precautions when carrying items up and down stairs. Check ladders for safety and stability before use. Workers using scaffolding should always wear personal fall arrest protection. Proper, industry specific training is also essential to the safety of workers in any given field.

Other Exertion and Bodily Reaction

Similar to overexertion, other exertion and bodily reaction injuries usually occur in non-impact accidents. Basically, this means that the worker was not harmed by direct contact with another object. Instead, the injury results from the way a person’s body reacts to a particular stimulus. Situations that can cause “other exertion and bodily reaction” injuries include:

  • Repetitive motions
  • Excessive physical effort
  • Remaining in one position for a long period of time
  • Unnatural body position.

Your risk of these injuries depends on the nature of your work and your willingness to utilize appropriate safety precautions. Many jobs require repetitive motions, for example, but by taking advantage of work breaks and learning exercises to combat the effect of repetitive motions on your body, you can reduce your risk. Sitting at a computer all day can result in negative bodily reactions as well, so get up at least every hour and take a brief walk around the office. Stretching and moving around as much as possible is helpful in any occupation. It keeps the body warm and flexible, which helps to eliminate many types of injuries. Continue reading

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