Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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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

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration establishes rules, regulations, and standards that employers must comply with to maintain a safe working environment for employees. In addition to protecting employee safety, OSHA regulations actually help employers in many cases. For example, if an employee is injured but an OSHA investigation reveals that the employer followed all established rules and regulations, these findings will help the employer avoid liability. In a recent and surprising move, OSHA has withdrawn its ‘slips, trips, and falls rule’ from the White House review process in order to review the rule’s benefits and costs. In doing so, OSHA has created a possible dilemma for employers, many of whom are now unsure of how to proceed. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

How Does Withdrawing This Rule Hurt Employers?

For starters, the rule helped create a safety-net for employers to adhere to. However, the rule also provided some ‘grey areas’ which also served to protect employers. The portion of the slips, trips, and falls rule that pertained to guardrail standards was one such grey area.The standard height of guardrails is set at 42 inches, however, a height of 36 or 37 inches was considered a de minimis violation, which requires no penalty. With the removal of the slips, trips, and falls rule that included this ‘exception’ to the 42-inch rule, employers are now unclear if they have to retrofit all guardrails to the standard height.

The removal of this rule is significant – slips, trips, and falls account for billions of dollars in workers’ comp payments every year. According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety’s 2016 Workplace Safety Index, employers spent $15.6 billion on injuries from same level falls and falls to a lower level in 2013, and $2.4 billion on slips, trips, and falls in the same year.

Slips, Trips, and Falls Account for 3,500 Serious Injuries Every Year

The slips, trips, and falls rule, which was originally published in 1990, established requirements for personal fall protection systems, among other things. It has since been rewritten twice to adapt to technological advances. The withdrawal of this rule on December 21 may only be a temporary move. OSHA has stated that it will finalize the rule during the current term and re-publish the rule once this has been accomplished. OSHA referred to other rules which have been temporarily withdrawn, updated, and re-published as well. According to the director of consulting services for the National Safety Council in Itasca, Illinois, W.E. Scott, the rule is beneficial in that it incorporates new technologies to protect workers and may reduce the slips, trips, and falls injuries in the council’s 2015 Injury Facts report. The report revealed 3,500 serious injuries and 20 fatalities due to slips, trips, and falls in 2015.  Continue reading

The US Department of Labor and Mass Bay Electrical Corporation have reached a settlement agreement in a case involving the deaths of two Mass Bay employees in 2014. John Loughran and Joseph Boyd III were working on a platform that was raised on a crane when the crane toppled, killing both men. The MA electrical contractor was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for multiple violations, including improper employee training. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Beyond compensating the victims’ families for their losses, the settlement seeks to prevent future injuries and fatalities by implementing corrective action and setting up a training fund in memory of the victims. In addition to improper employee training, OSHA also cited Mass Bay for failing to adhere to the crane manufacturer’s safety procedures. “The deaths of Joseph Boyd III and John Loughran should never have occurred. Effective and ongoing training of employees and adherence to the clear safety requirements set forth by the equipment’s manufacturer are critical in preventing fatalities like these from happening again. This settlement requires Mass Bay Electrical Corp. to take stringent, detailed, continual and effective corrective action,” said the New England Regional administrator for OSHA, Kim Stille.

Settlement Establishes Scholarship Fund in Victims’ Names

The settlement provides court-enforced rules that Mass Bay must follow and establishes a scholarship fund for employee training. Both of these unique stipulations aim to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. Mass Bay is required to provide at least $3,000 in contributions to the scholarship fund, which will be set up in both victims’ names, every year for the next 10 years and $5,000 per year in the following decade. As both men were members of the Local 104 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the fund will be administered with the IBEW’s cooperation.

Mass Bay Must Provide Extensive Training Programs to Employees

As part of the settlement, Mass Bay is also required to provide thorough training and certification programs to its employees, undergo regular safety audits, establish an in-house safety committee, and notify OSHA about any work utility projects. Due to Mass Bay’s failure to comply with regulations set forth by OSHA and the crane’s manufacturer, the electrical contractor will pay OSHA a penalty of $136,000. Continue reading

On Thursday afternoon, an explosion at the North Andover Dow Chemical facility injured five workers, four critically. State and federal officials are investigating the explosion, which took place in a chemical lab at the plant. As a precautionary measure, the state’s bomb squad will be detonating chemicals that may have injured the workers.  In addition, the facility is being secured by emergency personnel to ensure that safety requirements are being followed. The official cause of the explosion is still unknown. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Four of the injured workers were hospitalized and one was treated at the scene for minor injuries. According to staff at Lawrence General Hospital, the critically injured workers are suffering from burns and shrapnel injuries. The burns appear to have been caused by a dangerous chemical called trimethylaluminum, a key component in LED lights, of which Dow is a manufacturer. More commonly known as trimethyl aluminum, the colorless liquid is highly flammable and reactive, and it is considered to be an explosion hazard.

No Atmospheric Release of Chemicals

Three of the four critically injured patients were airlifted to Boston hospitals after being initially transported to Lawrence General Hospital. Although the official cause of the explosion is unknown, it is believed that the chemical responsible for the patients’ burns, trimethylaluminum, may have been exposed to water, resulting in an explosive reaction. According to North Andover Town Manager, Andrew Mayor, there was never any risk to people in the surrounding area because there was no atmospheric release of the chemicals. Furthermore, following the explosion, patients and firefighters who responded to the scene were decontaminated. According to State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, it is too early to determine if human error contributed to the explosion.

Similar Incident in 2013 Killed One Worker

This isn’t the North Andover Dow facility’s first explosion. In 2013, a fatal explosion occurred when a pyrophoric chemical called Trimethylindium was exposed to the air. A 51-year-old Peabody man, a worker at the plant, was killed. Fire equipment had to be decontaminated in that incident as well. Thursday’s incident and the explosion in 2013 do not appear to be linked in any way. In addition to the ongoing investigation into the cause of Thursday’s explosion, there will also be a forensic review to ensure that the facility is compliant with safety and regulatory codes. In addition to the injuries to workers, the explosion caused significant damage to the building, but it remains structurally sound.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Workers’ Compensation Law Firm Serving All of Massachusetts

If you have been injured in any type of work-related accident, the experienced, knowledgeable team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help you navigate the workers’ compensation process. Although most on-the-job injuries are covered by workers’ comp benefits, applying is often a long, drawn-out process and it can be held up by mistakes on the application. In addition, it is common for workers to get less benefits than they are entitled to because of inaccurate information. Beyond that, if negligence played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. Don’t go through this alone. Contact the skilled workers’ comp team at Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case.

 

Falls from roofs are among the most common construction accidents in the industry. Unfortunately, they are often deadly. In order to reduce the risk of serious injury and death, it is essential that workers receive proper training and that employers provide a safe working environment at all times. Workers’ compensation can help cover medical expenses and lost wages when a worker is injured on-the-job. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today.

Roofing Falls Among Most Dangerous Construction Accidents

According to OSHA, 100 American workers are killed in roofing falls every year. Most of these are construction workers. That is an average of 34 fatal roofing injuries for every 100,000 construction workers. Beyond those numbers, an additional 150,000 people are injured annually in roofing accidents that require emergency room visits.

Most Roofing Accidents Are Preventable

Roofing falls are typically the result of inadequate employee training, carelessness on the part of the employee or employer, or negligence. Manufacturers, third-party vendors, and employers may be found liable in a roofing accident, depending on the cause. A safety-harness manufacturer may be deemed negligent, for example, if the harness breaks, causing a worker to fall.  Sometimes there seems to be a clear cause for the fall initially but upon further investigation other factors can be contributing factors for the accident. Hiring the right law firm who has access to the best experts is often critical to determining liability and maximizing damages.

Who is at Fault?

It is not uncommon for employers to claim that the accident was the injured worker’s fault. However, the right evidence and information can be used to prove otherwise. For example, were OSHA standards adhered to? Was the edge of the roof clearly marked with warning flags? Was a safety monitor on duty to warn workers when they near the edge? Was the worker tied off appropriately? If the worker fell through a hole, was the hole properly covered?

Beyond  MA Workers’ Comp

Workers’ Compensation is typically available to workers who have been injured while performing on-the-job duties. However, these benefits are limited. If roofing injuries are due to third-party or employer neglect, the victim will likely be entitled to additional compensation.

Roofing Accident Causes

Roofing falls can occur for a variety of reasons, including flimsy materials, employer or third-party negligence, collapsing ladders or scaffolding, electrical shock, and explosions.

Employers Must Provide a Safe Working Environment

Employers must take proper measures to ensure the safety of their workers. These include providing necessary equipment and materials, such as safety harnesses, lifts, railings, flags, and other safety gear. The employer is also responsible for ensuring that all equipment is in good working order and that working conditions and equipment are routinely inspected.

Common Roofing Accident Injuries

Common injuries from roofing accidents include sprains and broken bones, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and even death. Injuries sustained in roofing accidents can result in overwhelming medical expenses, lost wages, chronic pain, and emotional trauma. Continue reading

It’s been a bad month for construction accidents in the greater Boston area. Last week, a temporary construction barrier was blown over by high winds in Malden, pinning five people until witnesses were able to free them. Earlier this month, a worker was injured in the North End when the scaffolding he was standing on collapsed. Now this week, a 36-year-old worker was struck in the head when a portion of a 600-pound cinder block wall collapsed during a remodeling job. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

The accident, which occurred around 7:40 a.m. on Tuesday morning, is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The victim, whose identity has not been released, was standing on a scissor lift platform approximately six to eight feet off the ground when a cinder block wall gave way, crushing him with heavy debris. According to Stoughton Fire Chief Doug Campbell, he was rushed to a Boston trauma hospital by medical helicopter. His condition is currently unknown.

Scissor Lift May Have Saved Worker’s Life

The railings of the scissor lift may have saved his life, protecting him from much of the falling debris. “The piece of material actually stayed on top of the railings,” said Campbell, who pointed out that the positioning of the material also gave rescuers easy access to free the victim. According to Campbell, other workers on the job were able to lower the lift and stabilize their co-worker until emergency responders arrived.

When EMTs arrived to the construction site on Schuman Ave., the victim was conscious and alert, but reported having no feeling from the chest down. A MedFlight helicopter was immediately called to the scene. No further details have been released.

Always Use Caution Near Construction Sites

This recent string of construction-related accidents serves as a grim reminder that heavy equipment, temporary structures, and falling debris pose a risk to workers and passers-by alike. Although construction workers have a significantly higher risk of being seriously injured in these types of accidents, people living in, working in, and visiting the city are also at risk. Scaffolding, temporary walls, and construction equipment have become as commonplace in Boston as Starbucks. It’s important to use extreme caution when walking through temporary structures, under scaffolding, and near any type of heavy equipment or machinery.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Injury Law Firm

If you have been injured in any type of accident, the personal injury team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help you understand your rights and options. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, faulty products, and the negligence of another person, business, or property owner can all cause serious injuries and even death. If your injuries are suffered on-the-job, you are typically covered by workers’ compensation. However, if those injuries were due to negligence on the part of your employer, a contractor, or a third-party vendor, you may be entitled to additional compensation. Fighting to protect your rights and your well-being is not selfish. If you’ve been injured, you may quickly become overwhelmed by medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. These costs, and the injuries themselves, can also take an emotional toll. Don’t go through this alone. Contact  a Massachusetts Workers Compensation Lawyer today for a free consultation about your case.

Trenching and excavation are among the most dangerous construction-related operations in the country today. Employers and employees must be highly educated on everything from trenching safeguards to cave-in protection before engaging in this type of work. An incident in Massachusetts earlier this year serves as a grim reminder that employees cannot always rely on the employer to ensure the safety of their working environment. On July 31, 2015, Davide Nascimento was killed while installing a sewer line in an excavation. When a portion of the roadway above him collapsed, it broke a water main pipe. Water rapidly filled the excavation, trapping and drowning 28-year-old Nascimento. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

The inherent dangers of Trenching Work: The greatest risk to workers is the potential for cave-ins. They are the most common accident in this field and frequently result in fatalities. In fact, trench collapses are responsible for dozens of fatalities every year. Beyond cave-ins, other hazards include falls from high places, falling debris, hazardous or toxic atmospheres, and incidents with equipment.

Never enter an unprotected trench: Unless an excavation is made entirely in stable rock, trenches require a protective system if they are 5 feet deep or greater. If they are 20 feet deep or greater, the protective system must be designed by a professional engineer or based on a professional engineer’s tabulated data.

Know your protective systems: There are multiple protective systems, and the required system depends on the job you are doing. For example, a sloping system cuts the trench wall at an angle so that it slopes away from the excavation. A shoring system involves the installation of an aluminum hydraulic or similar support to prevent cave-ins from soil movement. A shielding system uses trench boxes or similar supports to protect workers from soil cave-ins. Designing these systems is extremely complex and requires the expertise of a registered professional engineer.

Always have a competent person: Standards set by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) require daily inspection of trenches by a ‘competent person.’ This is an individual with the ability to identify hazards or hazardous working conditions, including those that may be unsanitary or dangerous to workers. This individual is authorized to eliminate or control such hazards by taking prompt action to correct them.

Make sure you have safe access in and safe access out: In order to safely enter and exit an excavation, it is essential that all workers have access to ladders, ramps, steps, and any other means of exit. If these devices are not well maintained or located within 25 feet of workers, the consequences can be disastrous. Continue reading

Construction work slows in Massachusetts, but does not come to a stop.  In major cities like Boston, many construction workers are on-the-job year round. Considering that construction is already one of the most dangerous occupations, adding the hazards of winter weather can dramatically increase the risks. In Massachusetts, snow, ice, extreme cold can lead to disaster if workers and employers don’t follow safety protocol. Taking proper precautions can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury and death. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Winter Building and Construction Safety Tips

The Occupational Health and Safety website offers the following “winterizing” safety tips for all types of building and construction jobs.

Avoid fire hazards: Wooden ladders should be replaced with non-combustible ladders. Make sure to store materials away from open flames at all times. Temporary heating devices should comply with local fire codes.

Protect pipes: For starters, do not attempt to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame. Not only can this cause fires, it can also result in a steam explosion. To thaw frozen pipes, use a heat lamp, space heater, or heat gun only. Ensure that any worker using these devices is properly trained to do so.

Protect water tanks: Roof water tanks should be regularly checked to ensure that they do not freeze.

Remove debris: Debris always poses a risk in work environments, but this is especially true for winter construction. Ice and snow on rooftops and overhangs should be cleared regularly to prevent falling to street level. Heavy snow can also hide dangerous materials that could fall to a lower level or cause a worker to trip.

Make sure that equipment and temporary structures are stable and secure: All construction materials, including ladders, netting, and accessories, can shift in inclement weather. Small items can be stored in a toolbox or other container. Large equipment and temporary structures, such as scaffolding, fencing, and sidewalk sheds, should be secured as well.

Avoid working in icy conditions: Regardless of how important or time-sensitive the job is, working on scaffolding in snow and ice is never a good idea. Unless you are trying to remedy a hazardous situation, stay off scaffolding in snow and ice. The same is true during storms and high winds.

Avoid using hoists in inclement weather: During heavy rain, ice, snow, and high winds, do not use hoists. In addition, if a hoist has been exposed to winds of 35 mph or more, it should be inspected before future use.

Inspect cranes for use in inclement weather: To keep cranes functioning safely, they must be properly stored, maintained, and inspected on a regular basis. Check for water and ice accumulation on the crane, which can result in a slip and fall or a falling ice hazard. Continue reading

Year in and year out, on the job worker falls from high places are the number one cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Falls may occur due to faulty equipment, human error, slippery surfaces,  safety violations and lack of proper personal protection equipment. In Massachusetts, and many other states another major cause of fatal falls is poorly constructed scaffolding or construction staging. These types of structures are frequently used in construction projects and typically dot the skylines of all major cities at any given time. Tall buildings are covered in scaffolding to allow workers to reach upper levels that are inaccessible by a ladder. When staging is unstable, workers can fall multiple stories, causing serious injuries and death.

Boston Man Injured Last Week in Scaffolding Collapse

In a recent accident, a Boston man fell 50 feet when part of the construction staging he was on collapsed. The incident, which occurred last Thursday, took place at a construction site at 65 Charter Street in the North End. The 42-year-old man, who has not been identified, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for treatment of his injuries. However, it is not yet known if the injuries were serious or life-threatening.

Similar incidents have occurred in Boston and in other major U.S. cities, and the severity of injuries varies greatly. For example, three people were killed in Boston when a 10-ton scaffolding collapsed and fell 13 stories in 2006. In 2011, scaffolding on a building in Harlem collapsed, landing on a bus and injuring 18 people. A year later, three New York City construction workers were left dangling from a 17th story window when staging collapsed in the Upper East Side. And earlier this year, scaffolding collapse accidents in Houston and Raleigh, N.C., resulted in multiple serious injuries and fatalities.

What Causes Staging / Scaffolding to Collapse?

Any type of accident or dangerous condition can lead to a staging / scaffolding collapse, or a fall from this type of structure. However, poorly constructed or inadequately inspected scaffolding is often the cause. Other possible causes of staging and scaffolding collapses include:

Old or weak materials

Improper maintenance

Scaffolding that is improperly secured

Missing or defective brake

Missing or faulty safety systems

Following safety protocol before using suspended staging and scaffolding is extremely important. Unfortunately, victims of scaffolding collapses are more likely to suffer serious injuries or death than victims of most other work-related accidents. Continue reading

Most Massachusetts workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation benefits. On-the-job accidents, such as chemical burns, falls from high places, inhalation of toxic fumes, being struck by an object, and work-vehicle accidents can result in serious physical injuries and even death. But what about emotional injuries? In Massachusetts, mental and emotional injuries are typically covered by workers’ compensation if they result from eligible workplace events. Contact a Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

A recent MA workers’ comp claim filed by a Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department employee highlights a notable exception in the Massachusetts workers’ comp statute. Joseph Upton, a jail officer who started working at the sheriff’s department in 1991, was terminated after a jail assault investigation revealed that he had filed false reports about the incident. However, upon following a grievance, his job was reinstated in 2001. Upton was scheduled to receive back pay, minus any unemployment benefits he received while not working. Although the sheriff’s department appealed the award of back pay, the MA Supreme Court upheld the award in 2008.

Upon reinstatement, Upton was required to submit a signed document that detailed his unemployment earnings while off work. However, after learning that the jail officer may have underreported outside earnings, the sheriff’s department requested that Upton meet with investigators to discuss his signed statement. Immediately following the meeting, Upton went to the hospital, complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. Shortly after, Upton filed a workers’ comp claim, requesting benefits for emotional injuries suffered as a result of the stressful investigation.

Injuries Resulting from ‘Personnel Action’ are Not Covered

Upton’s claim for benefits was denied by the administrative law judge because his disability was the result of a “bona fide personnel action.” Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts workers’ comp statute specifically states, “No mental or emotional disability arising principally out of a bona fide, personnel action including a transfer, promotion, demotion, or termination except such action which is the intentional infliction of emotional harm shall be deemed to be a personal injury within the meaning of this chapter.” As Upton’s meeting with investigators was deemed a “personnel action,” his injuries weren’t eligible for benefits. This case serves as a reminder that Massachusetts employees are not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits for injuries that occurred due to a normal personnel action, including investigative procedures. This is even true for physical injuries, such as chest pains or shortness of breath. Continue reading

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