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.
July 28, 2014,

Hyde Park Contractor Subjects Employees to Electrocution Hazards: Faces $70,000 in Fines

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration says that it has cited P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., a Hyde Park contracting company, for knowingly exposing workers to electrocution hazards from power lines at Cambridge, Massachusetts work site.

According to a press release published by OSHA, the company exposed its employees to possible electrocution from working close to energized power lines at a work site where required safeguards were not used. On May 9, an inspection by an OSHA official found that employees used a trench rod and a fiberglass pole with a metal end to lift overhead power lines, so that workers could move excavating equipment under the lines and onto the work site.

According to OSHA’s area director, Jeffrey Erskine (who handles cases in Middlesex and Essex counties), "This employer knew the overhead power lines were dangerous, but did not take steps to protect workers or shield them from contact and electrocution. Electricity is swift and deadly. While it is fortunate no one was injured or killed in this case, the hazard of death or disabling burns was real and present."

Because of this incident, the contracting company faces $70,290 in proposed fines. In 2011, P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., was cited for the same hazard at a Framingham work site. Based on the employer's knowledge of the hazard, OSHA has cited Gioioso for a willful violation with $69,300 in proposed fines. According to OSHA standards, a willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. Another violation, with a $990 fine, was cited for improper labeling of a trench box.

Continue reading "Hyde Park Contractor Subjects Employees to Electrocution Hazards: Faces $70,000 in Fines" »

July 25, 2014,

Massachusetts Worker's Death Leads to Fines for New Bedford Fish Processing Plant

Six months after the death of a worker in a New Bedford processing plant, his employer has been ordered to pay a hefty fine. Sea Watch International Ltd. was cited for seven serious safety violations following the deadly Massachusetts work accident. The company must now pay a more than $35,000 fine.

The worker, Victor Gerena, was cleaning a shellfish-shucking machine when he got “entangled” in a rotary turbine engine at around 1:30am on the night shift in January. The fire department spent close to an hour freeing him.

Gerena was pronounced dead at the accident scene. He worked with Sea Watch for almost two decades. Following his death, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health called on all industries using big machines to make sure that they have the proper protections in place to protect workers from injuries and deaths on the job. Brenda Gordon of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that if the company had executed necessary safety practices, Gerena’s death could have been prevented.

Gerena’s New Bedford worker death happened nearly three years after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the plant. Back then it found serious safety violations, including poor emergency training and inadequate respiratory protections. After remedying the violations, a follow-up inspection in 2012 determined that Sea Watch was in total compliance with OSHA standards.

Following Gerena’s fatal accident, however, Sea Watch was cited for not implementing the basic safety procedures to protect machine servicing workers, incomplete tagout/lockout procedures, failure to conduct periodic inspections of procedures, and failure to train employees in tagout/lockout procedures. OSHA said that plant workers were exposed to fall hazards and improperly trained in the latest chemical hazard communication methods.

The government agency also cited Workforce Unlimited Inc., a temporary employment company that provides temporary workers to Sea Watch’s New Bedford plant, for three workplace violations. It considers the company a joint employer because it had an on-sight supervisor at the facility.

Massachusetts Workers' Compensation
Typically, workers who are injured on the job or families whose loved one died in a work accident cannot sue their employer for personal injury. They are, however, entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, this is not always a straightforward procedure. The employer or the company’s insurer may dispute the claim or seek to delay payment.

At Altman & Altman, LLP, our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers are here to help injured workers and their family receive the benefits they are owed, including: payment of all related medical costs, lost wages, (temporary or permanent) disability benefits, cash benefits for permanent scarring and body function loss, and vocational rehabilitation. The family of a deceased worker is also entitled to certain benefits.

Contact our Massachusetts worker injury law firm today.

Man dies in shucking machine accident at New Bedford seafood plant, Boston.com, January 17, 2014

Worker's death was preventable, OSHA says, SouthCoast Today, June 11, 2014

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

More Blog Posts:
General Motors Recalls Another 800,000 Cars, Cites More Deaths Related to Faulty Ignition Switches, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, July 24, 2014

Fatal Hazmat Incident Reported at MA Elementary School, Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog, July 7, 2014

I’ve Just Been in Uber Accident, What do I do?, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, July 16, 2014

July 10, 2014,

Dollar Tree Stores Fined Nearly $178,000 for Safety Hazards at MA Store

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration has fined Dollar Tree Stores Inc., $177,800 after OSHA inspectors from the Braintree area inspection office found dangerous hazards at a store in Roslindale, MA. According to OSHA reports, the Boston neighborhood store repeatedly exposed workers to dangerous conditions including blocked exits and hazards in the store's stockroom.

"This case reflects this company's deliberate and ongoing refusal to effectively address hazards that have been cited multiple times at their stores across the country," Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, said in a press release. "On his initial visit to the store, the OSHA inspector informed management of the hazards and the need to correct them. Yet, on subsequent visits, the inspector found these hazardous conditions again and again, showing an unacceptable disregard for employee health and safety."

According to OSHA documents, the inspection was performed in December 2013. The official reportedly found that merchandise in the store's stockroom was consistently stacked in an unstable and unsecured manner that exposed workers to crushing injuries should the stacks collapse. Additionally, emergency exit routes were blocked by store inventory, shopping carriages, a conveyor and garbage. The report also stated that the store failed to maintain a means of access to an electrical control panel so that employees could turn off the store's electrical power in the event of an emergency.

Consequently OSHA cited Dollar Tree Stores for three willful violations, totaling $174,500 in fines. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, according to OSHA standards. The company was also cited for one serious violation, with a $3,300 fine, for allowing trash and garbage to accumulate throughout the stockroom, creating tripping and exit hazards for the workers. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known, according to OSHA.

In OSHA’s press release, it was stated that Dollar Tree Stores has been inspected 153 times nationally over 19 years and was cited for 453 violations of OSHA standards. Within the last five years, Dollar Tree Stores was cited 51 times for the same violations being cited willfully at the Roslindale store.

OSHA’s acting regional administrator for New England Robert Hooper stated "Placing employees repeatedly at risk of serious injuries or death is serial behavior for this company, and it must change. A large employer such as Dollar Tree Stores has a responsibility to its employees to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers at all of its more than 5,000 locations."

Continue reading "Dollar Tree Stores Fined Nearly $178,000 for Safety Hazards at MA Store" »

July 7, 2014,

Fatal Hazmat Incident Reported at MA Elementary School

Officials in Plymouth are scrambling to figure out what caused a scary hazardous materials incident that claimed the life of a senior custodian at Manomet Elementary School this morning. Police responded to a report of a body inside the building, but it was not immediately known if it was related the ongoing hazmat incident or if it was an unrelated occurrence. Upon investigating the death of the school employee, two police officers and another unidentified person became ill and needed to be transported to the hospital. Boston.com reports that a total of ten people, including nine school employees were taken the hospital with minor symptoms. Most had been treated and released.

It is unclear what caused the illness, and officials are investigating whether the incident is related work being done on the building, or if it was caused by another unknown source. The state fire marshal is conducting an investigation and said more information would be available later in the afternoon, but did say that chemical levels in the building appeared to be “very low.”

Continue reading "Fatal Hazmat Incident Reported at MA Elementary School" »

June 30, 2014,

Boston Bridge & Steel Inc. Cited by OSHA After Worker’s Death

Steel fabrication plant Boston Bridge & Steel Inc., was cited by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety Health Organization following a worker’s death late last year.

The 46-year-old man who worked at the steel fabrication plant died when a 6-ton steel bridge arch beam that he was spray painting fell and crushed him. An investigation by OSHA found that Boston Bridge & Steel Inc. exposed its workers to hazardous situations including failing to ensure that the fallen beam and three other similar beams were adequately braced or supported to prevent them from falling while being painted.

"This death should not have happened-and would not have happened-if these beams had been properly secured," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "An incident such as this, and the incalculable loss of life that results, can be prevented only if employers provide and maintain effective safeguards for their workers."

The employees, who were cleaning and spray-painting the beams, were also not equipped with adequate respiratory protection against vapors generated during the spray painting, according to a press release by OSHA. In addition, workers who wore half-face respirators had not been evaluated to determine their medical fitness to use respirators and had not been supplied with the correct respirator filters. Investigators also determined that employees had not been informed or trained about the hazards associated with chemicals used during spray painting.

Additional hazards found by OSHA officials included flying debris from an unguarded grinder and the use of a cleaning hose with excess air pressure; flash burns due to missing screens where welding was performed; electric shock and fire hazards from misused electrical cords and missing electrical knockouts; falls from a damaged access ladder; and slips and trips from accumulated ice and snow on an emergency exit route, according to OSHA.

Continue reading "Boston Bridge & Steel Inc. Cited by OSHA After Worker’s Death" »

June 25, 2014,

New Study Shows Long-Lasting Effects of Workplace Chemicals

It has been a well-known fact for years that some chemicals found in certain work environments can be dangerous to an employee’s health. We know that Asbestos, for example, provided excellent fire protection for homes built in the mid-20th century, but was found to be definitively linked to Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer. We know that the chemicals found in many industrial strength solvents cannot possible be healthy to breathe in, but a recent study shows these effects may be much more significant than originally thought.

The scientific definition for a solvent is a substance, such as water, that is used to dissolve another compound—say, salt. When salt is dissolved in water, the salt is the solute in this situation, the water is the solvent, and the salt water is the end result—the solution. Chemical solvents use potent materials to break down stronger compounds. In the study authored by Erika Sabbath, a research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, researchers focused on three different types of chemical solvents:
• Benzene, which is found in detergents and many types of plastics
• Chlorinated solvents, which are common ingredients in industrial products such as paint strippers and dry cleaning solutions
• Petroleum solvents, commonly found in varnish.

Continue reading "New Study Shows Long-Lasting Effects of Workplace Chemicals" »

June 23, 2014,

Massachusetts House Approves Domestic Workers Bill That Establishes Protections

The Massachusetts House has just approved legislation that establishes a “bill of rights” for domestic workers. Under the bill, domestic workers are defined as individuals who provide services in the home, such as laundering, housekeeping, caregiving, home companion services, cooking, and childcare. (Babysitting is not included). The bill was approved by the state’s senate last month. Now, Governor Deval Patrick must sign the bill into law.

There are about 67,000 domestic workers in Massachusetts. Many of them are women, which can make them easy targets of sexual harassment and other abuses. Many domestic employees have complained that they lack the legal protections provided to other workers in the state.

Under the new legislation, domestic workers employed in a household for over 16 hours a week would have to receive written contracts. They would be entitled to a description of their duties, their pay rate (including overtime and compensation for specialized skills and other responsibilities), information about yearly raises, health insurance, and reimbursement for additional expenses.

The bill mandates that private households provide domestic workers with days off, designated breaks for meals and rest periods, unpaid maternity leave, sick time, vacation days, personal days, and severance. Also, domestic workers would have to be given two weeks notice or severance pay before they are let go. If they are evicted from a living quarters they must be given at least 30 days written notice and employers would have to abide by the uniform summary process rules.

Massachusetts Workers' Compensation
Currently domestic workers who are employed over 16 hours a week are entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits. This means that regardless of who or what caused their injury that occurred on the job, they are entitled to work injury benefits. Slip and fall accidents, burn injuries from cooking, poison from toxic conditions in the home, illness contracted from caring for a sick person, and back injuries from lifting or moving heavy objects are a few of the injuries and ailments that can result in a domestic work situation.

Unfortunately, not all employers or their insurers are willing to pay an injured employee the workers' compensation benefits that he/she is owed. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we know that this can be very stressful, especially if you are now unable to work, have medical bills to pay, and must still support your family.

Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers are here to make sure our clients get all of their benefits and that there are no delays in payments. We also pursue death injury benefits for the families of workers that were killed on the job. Contact our Boston work injury law firm today to request your free case consultation.

Bill S.882, An Act establishing the domestic workers bill of rights, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Domestic Worker Bill Approved by Massachusetts Legislature, The Insurance Journal, June 20, 2014

More Blog Posts:
New Bedford Shellfish Processing Plant Fined after Worker’s Death, Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog, June 12, 2014

Amtrak Train-SUV Crash in Mansfield, Massachusetts Kills Three, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, June 23, 2014

MBTA Operators’ Union Objects to New Cell Phone Policy After Newton Bus Crash, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, June 19, 2014

June 12, 2014,

New Bedford Shellfish Processing Plant Fined after Worker’s Death

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined New Bedford shellfish processing plant Sea Watch International as well as the temporary employment agency which supplied the plant’s workers, a total of $44,000 in safety violations following the death of an employee earlier this year.

The worker, Victor Gerena, 35, was an 18-year veteran of Sea Watch who had become entangled in a rotary turbine engine while cleaning jammed clams from a shucking machine, the Boston Globe reported. According to OSHA officials, the machine’s power had not been turned off—ultimately causing Gerena to become stuck in the machine. Such preventative measures as the “lock out tag out” should have been taken by Gerena and officials from OSHA alleged that the company had failed to properly train the man of this safety procedure.

In total, the Maryland-based company was issued 11 violations by OSHA, including eight serious violations for workplace safety standards, equaling $35,410 in fines. $9,000 in fines were also issued to Rhode Island temp agency Workforce Unlimited, covering five violations—three of which were deemed serious by OSHA.

This is not the only time Sea Watch International, a major supplier of canned clams for 35 years, has been under scrutiny by OSHA. In 2011, the plant was inspected by officials who had discovered several serious safety violations, including inadequate emergency training for employees dealing with hazardous waste and insufficient respiratory protection for some workers. According to the Boston Globe, OSHA reported no “lock out tag out” violations were made at the time. Because of those violations in 2011, the company paid $4,675 in fines and ultimately mitigated the issues. A follow-up inspection in April 2012 found the company was in full compliance with OSHA standards.

Sadly, this is only another example of how inadequate training and non-compliance with safety standards in the workplace can lead to workers being injured or killed on the job. Recently, we reported that the Tribe hummus plant in Taunton, MA, was cited following the 2011 death of Daniel Collazo who like Gerena, was caught in a machinery for not using the “lock out tag out” safety procedure. Tribe was fined $500,000 by OSHA. According to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, Gerena’s death marks the twenty-second worker death caused by machinery in Massachusetts since 2000. The majority of these deaths were the direct result of inadequate machine guards and lack of other federally mandated safety measures, according to the coalition and the Boston Globe.

Continue reading "New Bedford Shellfish Processing Plant Fined after Worker’s Death " »

June 2, 2014,

Report Finds MA Companies Slacking on Safety

It does not take long to find a group of trade workers dangling from the raw beams of a skyscraper under construction downtown or a crew working in the subterranean depths of a trench in Cambridge. Most citizens of the Commonwealth walk by these sites and remark to themselves how dangerous that looks, and then continue on their way, safely out of the danger facing construction workers every day.

It should come as no surprise that construction trades consistently rank among the most dangerous occupations in the United States, and this year is no exception. Citing the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Forbes ranked construction laborers as the tenth most dangerous profession last year. According to the article, occupational hazards include “heavy machinery, dangerous tools and equipment.” Because of the well-documented risks, building and construction companies have the added responsibility of keeping their workers safe under more hazardous situations than the traditional office environment. A recent investigation by CBS Boston exposed the hard truth that numerous companies are willfully neglecting the safety of their laborers and putting profits ahead of the lives of their workers.

Continue reading "Report Finds MA Companies Slacking on Safety" »

May 31, 2014,

Salisbury, MA Manufacturer Fined $93,200 for Repeat Safety Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Andover Healthcare Inc., a maker of coated fabrics and adhesives for the healthcare industry, for willfully exposing workers to safety hazards at its Salisbury, MA manufacturing plant.

According to OSHA documents, the company put workers’ lives at risk by exposing them to unsafe machinery. Workers were ultimately at risk for being caught in plant machinery or being crushed in said machinery. The company also faces violations for not properly training employees the lockout/tagout procedure when using dangerous machinery. The company is currently facing more than $93,000 worth of fines for two repeat violations and seven serious violations. In 2010 an OSHA investigation found that the company had intentionally put workers’ at risk—the same violations were made this month and carried fines of more than $65,000.

"It's vital that employers develop and implement adequate lockout/tagout procedures to protect workers from moving machine parts during servicing and maintenance," said Jeffery Erskine, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "Failure to do so places employees at risk of being caught in or crushed by machinery if it turns on during service or maintenance." 

OSHA found workers had been exposed to struck-by and crushing hazards from damaged or insecurely anchored steel storage racks and an unmarked crane lift. Additional hazards included unguarded machinery, a defective power cord and obstructed exit access. These conditions resulted in citations for seven serious violations, with $26,200 in fines. Finally, the company was cited for two other-than-serious violations, with $2,000 in fines, for failure to record the injuries properly, which resulted in medical treatment or lost workdays.

Continue reading "Salisbury, MA Manufacturer Fined $93,200 for Repeat Safety Violations" »

May 31, 2014,

U.S. Department of Labor Sues MA Employer for Wrongful Termination Stemming from Whistleblower Complaint

The Department of Labor has is in the midst of a legal battle with Donald Pottern, of the company Crown Furniture of West Springfield, for firing a worker who filed a safety complaint with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a statement made by OSHA official Robert Hooper, Hooper said "Employees have a right to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of discharge or other forms of retaliation from their employer. Such retaliation can coerce workers into silence, preventing them from reporting or raising concerns about conditions that could injure, sicken or kill them."

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, such employer retaliation warrants authority to the organization to file suit against employers that take action against employees.

According to OSHA documents and a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Springfield, the employee had contacted OSHA on May 9, 2011, alleging safety and health hazards in the basement of Crown Furniture, including the presence of asbestos, mold and rodents. On May 11, Pottern apparently fired the employee after he questioned him as to why he filed the complaint. The now former employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found legitimate merit to the complaint.

According to OSHA, the lawsuit seeks a judgment affirming that Pottern discharged the employee in retaliation for filing an OSHA complaint and permanently prohibits him from illegally retaliating against employees in the future. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks payment of more than $20,000 in lost wages (plus interest), as well as payment of compensatory and/or punitive damages and posting of a nondiscrimination notice at the workplace.

Continue reading "U.S. Department of Labor Sues MA Employer for Wrongful Termination Stemming from Whistleblower Complaint" »

May 31, 2014,

OSHA Cites MA Printing Firm For
Exposing Workers To Combustible Metal Powder and Electrical Hazards

Woburn-based 3-D printing company, Powderpart Inc., was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and nine serious violations of workplace safety standards. According to OSHA documents, the inspection followed an explosion and fire on Nov. 5, 2013, which inflicted third-degree burns on a company employee.

The Andover Area Office discovered that the company had failed to prevent and protect its employees from the fire and explosion hazards of reactive, combustible* metal powders, such as titanium and aluminum alloys, which are used in the company's three-dimensional printing process.

"The fire and explosion hazards when working with titanium and aluminum are established, particularly when the materials are in powder form," Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties said in a statement. "Just as it's easier to start a campfire with kindling than with logs, it's easier for a metal fire to start when you're working with metal powder that is as fine as confectioner's sugar."

According to OSHA’s report, Powderpart had failed to dispose of known sources of potential ignition and follow pertinent instructions from equipment manufacturers, and did not alert the Woburn Fire Department to the workplace presence of hazardous materials. In addition Powderpart had an employee workstation and flammable powders next to an area with explosion potential.

Continue reading "OSHA Cites MA Printing Firm For
Exposing Workers To Combustible Metal Powder and Electrical Hazards" »