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Any type of workplace can be a stressful environment, there’s no doubt about that. But what if the level of stress is abnormally high? What if a life-threatening injury is suffered on-the-job, or a worker gets assaulted by a supervisor or co-worker? Traumatic experiences can result in more than just “ordinary” stress.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes an individual to relive the events of a traumatic incident again and again. If you are afraid to go to work, or are overcome by an intense response to traumatic memories from a work-related incident, you may have PTSD. And you may be eligible for workers’ compensation in Massachusetts?

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, the next step toward collecting workers’ comp is to provide evidence showing the PTSD was caused by a workplace incident. In Massachusetts, mental and emotional disabilities are eligible for workers’ comp. Certain occupations are more commonly associated with high stress and mental health issues, such as PTSD. Examples of these occupations include law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, and military personnel. Workers in these jobs are more commonly exposed to violent, dangerous, or traumatic situations. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a police officer to be eligible for PTSD-related workers’ comp benefits.

Common Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD is an emotional disorder characterized by a variety of symptoms. The symptoms below are associated with PTSD and can range in duration and severity.

  • Flashbacks of a traumatic event
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Violent behavior
  • Self-destructive actions
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Problems with memory and focus
  • Nightmares

PTSD can also result in physical symptoms and sickness. The following medical conditions are associated with PTSD:

  • Severe headaches
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy and fatigue

PTSD may make an employee unable to work for an extended period of time. For this reason, workers’ compensation benefits may be available. Although MA workers have a right to get workers’ comp for work-related PTSD, the claims process can be highly complex. In addition, obtaining benefits for psychiatric injuries can be especially challenging. Insurance companies are notorious for challenging whether emotional disorders, including PTSD, are actually work-related. Continue reading

Some job risks are obvious. Construction workers in Massachusetts are at an increased risk for falls, and law enforcement professionals risk their lives every day. But desk jobs? Physical injuries aren’t the only risk associated with the following occupations. High stress and emotional trauma can be equally debilitating.

The Worst Jobs for Your Health

Construction: As one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, even well-trained construction workers are at risk. Among the most serious construction-related risks are falls, electrocutions, chemical burns or inhalation of toxic fumes, and getting caught between objects or surfaces. To dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury or death, protective gear should be work at all times. Thorough and continued training is also essential. Despite their best efforts, construction workers are still at an increased risk for medical conditions such as lung cancer and asbestosis. And roofers and general laborers made the 2013 top ten list for occupations with the highest fatalities.

Service: Firefighters and police officers put their lives on the line to protect the public every day. However, burning buildings and violence aren’t the only risks these service workers face. The emotional toll from working long hours, caring for injured or dying people, and facing dangerous or violent situations on a regular basis, can be too much for one person to take. In addition to being physically dangerous, service jobs are also considered to be among the most stressful and emotionally challenging.

Farming, Fishing and Forestry: Those who love the outdoors may dream of being a professional fisherman (or woman), tilling the fields, or working in the Alaskan wilderness. But these jobs also come with an increased risk of serious injury and death. In fact, farmers, ranchers, loggers, and fishers were included in 2013’s top 10 list of occupations with most fatalities.

Armed Services: This category covers a wide variety of occupations, from fighter pilots to military lawyers. However, all military-related jobs have the potential to involve extended time away from home, long shifts, and the responsibility of protecting the lives of others. In addition to the risk of physical harm, military jobs are among the most stressful jobs in the United States.

Trucking: Truck drivers are at risk for multiple safety and health hazards. Many are exposed to dangerous fumes and chemicals on a regular basis, whether based on the types of loads they are hauling or from exposure while loading / unloading materials at loading docks. There’s also the inherent risk of being on the road, for long hours, in the middle of the night. Fatigue can be a very real problem for truck drivers, as can the risk of being involved in a collision with another fatigued, or drunk, driver. Hearing loss is also a common injury suffered by long-time truck drivers.

Desk Jobs: This deceptively-safe occupation can actually be quite dangerous, especially over the long term. For starters, excessive sitting can shorten our lifespan by years, while simultaneously increasing our risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Add to that the risk of back and neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and emotional stress, and desk jobs join the ranks of most unhealthy occupations. Deadline-driven jobs, such as held by event coordinators and newspaper reporters, are the biggest offenders, adding an extra level of emotional stress and anxiety. Continue reading

The World Health Organization estimates that 265,000 deaths are caused by burns annually, mainly occurring in the home and workplace.  According to the American Burn Association, there were 486,000 burn injuries that required medical treatment in 2016.  Annually, the American Burn Association estimates 3,400 U.S. burn injury deaths in the United States.  Of these, 2,550 result from residential/workplace fires, 300 result from vehicle crash fires, and the remaining 550 result from various causes, such as flames, smoke inhalation, scalding, and electricity.  In terms of the cost for burn injuries and deaths, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that males account for $4.8 billion, or 64 percent, of total fire and burn-related costs annually, while females account for the remaining $2.7 billion, or 36 percent.  Injuries sustained from burns, whether heat, electrical, radiation, friction, or chemical burns, happen far too often and cost far too much money for accidents that are avoidable most of the time.

According to the Burn Foundation, the Food Service Industry experiences the highest number of burns among all employment sectors, about 12,000 burns annually.  Many jobs involved in the Food Service Industry, including cooks, food handlers, kitchen works, and waiters, are among the top 50 professions at risk for on-the-job injury.  The majority of people who need to be hospitalized for burns sustained in the workplace work in the food preparation industry.  Teenagers working at fast food restaurants as fry cooks are at a higher risk, often because they are not adequately trained or have little experience.  For those working in the food industry, there are some simple ways that you can protect yourself from severe burns while on the job.  Be sure to wear protective gloves when touching hot pots or cooking with a deep fryer.  Wear shoes that have traction to avoid slipping on wet or greasy floors.  Extinguish hot oil or grease fires by covering the pot or container with a lid.  Don’t reach across hot surfaces.  Be sure to read all directions and understand the proper use of electrical appliances and stoves before use.  These precautions can also be utilized to prevent burns in residential kitchens.  Although some of these are occupationally specific precautions to take, there are additional general safety measures you can implement to avoid possible burn hazards in your own office, the most simple of which being aware of hot or corrosive objects and substances.  Continue reading

For several years, the U.S. property/casualty (P/C) industry’s workers’ compensation line has suffered underwriting losses.  However, 2015 marked a significant turnaround, according to a recently released report published by Fitch Ratings, Inc.  The report showed substantial profits for P/C workers’ compensation line.  Yet, Fitch also projects that due to recent competition, the workers’ compensation (P/C) line will return to an underwriting loss by 2017.  Jim Auden, managing director at Fitch, made a statement on the report saying, “The workers comp insurance market saw a sharp turnaround in the last few years due to past premium rate increases, stable loss cost trends and improved loss reserve experience, however, this performance will likely be unsustainable as price competition intensifies due in part to abundant market capacity.”  Fitch reports the segment underwriting combined ratio plunged from a cyclical peak of 117 percent in 2011 to the recent 95 percent in 2015.  Fitch predicts the workers’ comp line will produce a higher combined ratio of 98 percent this year followed by underwriting losses in 2017.  Steve Goldberg, Dallas-based chief risk and operating officer at AEU Holdings L.L.C. and president of TEE & GEE Group, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the combined ratio went as high as 105 percent in 2016 since “there isn’t enough medical management to offset the rise in medical provider costs.”  The Great Recession negatively impacted the workers’ compensation business, as it did most other businesses, specifically causing weak pricing and substantial drops in segment premium volume.  The underwriting response to the losses inexperienced in 2010 and 2011, in addition to the improving economy, caused a steep spike in written premium volume for the segment.

Further underwriting losses could be detrimental to companies seeking workers’ compensation insurance, notes Mike Vitulli, Boston-based vice president of Risk Strategies Co. Inc.  Vitulli predicts that some insurers will “avoid certain classes of business or states—or both” therefore reducing the insurance options for clients.  One example he provided in an email is that technology firms will probably not have difficulty securing workers compensation insurance for their employees but home health care companies in Massachusetts, where nurses often suffer musculoskeletal injuries on the job, may have more trouble finding coverage.  Continue reading

Yesterday afternoon, a wall collapsed at the former Wollaston Theatre in Quincy, trapping two workers under the debris.  The two workers were employees of Jamie McGuinness & Sons working on a demolition when the wall collapsed.  One worker, 40-years-old, was on a cherry picker and jumped down landing on the rocks below while the other worker, 38-years-old, was already on the ground and was then buried by debris for at least 15 minutes.  Quincy Fire Deputy Chief Jack Cadegan made a statement saying he “found the gentleman under three to four feet of bricks and [he] had a steel beam across his chest. The steel beam may have actually protected him somewhat.”  Both men were transported to Boston Medical Center with serious injuries but they are expected to recover.

Accidents like this occur somewhat commonly at construction sites due to the various hazards present.  The common accidents that occur at these sites include electrocutions, falls, equipment failure, and collapses of unsupported excavations.  Too often, injuries and deaths by such methods are preventable.  Unfortunately, construction workplace accidents tend to be caused by the sheer ignorance or negligence of construction workers or site developers.  One of the more common causes of injuries is structural collapse, most often when buildings or bridges are being erected or demolished.  Structural collapse during construction can be caused by excessive construction loading, improper sequencing, temporary material or system weaknesses, and temporary instabilities.  There are several warning signs that may indicate potential structural collapse that construction workers should be vigilant of.  These signs include: age of the building; cracks or bulges in walls; ability of water or smoke to push through walls that should have solid masonry; and sagging floors and roofs.  Construction workers should be aware of these warning signs as well as take addition safety precautions.  Most frequently, structural collapses occur in trenching, long and narrow ditches in the ground.  These collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries annually.  Construction deaths as a result of trench collapses rose considerably in 2003.  OSHA provides some specific safety precautions to consider while working with trenches, including the following: Continue reading

A crane collapsed yesterday along the Medford-Everett line, injuring the operator of the piece of machinery.  The accident occurred next to the Revere Beach Parkway were the Woods Memorial Bridge Project is currently underway.  Workers were cleaning up for the day when the crane become unbalanced and completely flipped over.  At the time, the crane was carrying 200 gallons of diesel fuel at the time, which began leaking.  Environmental groups were called to help clean up the fuel.  The operator suffered minor injuries, a broken arm and wrist, after he was trapped inside the crane when it fell.  Some of his coworkers used a torch to get him out before first responders arrived.  The operator works for Coastal Marine and was taken to Mass General Hospital but is expected to be OK.  Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are back investigating the incident today.  This is a relatively lucky case compared to dozens of other crashes in which many have died.

Worksite crane accidents can occur easily if the proper safety precautions are not taken.  Cranes are vital to the manufacturing and construction industries as they lift and transport heavy materials that could otherwise not be moved.   If the machinery is properly installed and maintained, cranes can move materials quite safely and efficiently.  However, if operation and safety procedures are not followed when using cranes and other large machinery, the lives of workers and bystanders can be put at great risk.

There are three main hazards that construction workers and crane operators need to be vigilant of when working near cranes.  The first are electrical hazards.  OSHA reports that nearly 50 percent of overhead crane accidents result from the machines touching a power source during operation.  Power line contact, when a metal section of a crane inadvertently contacts a high-voltage power line, typically occurs when the crane is moving materials under or nearby a power line.  Every year, almost 200 people die from power line contact with about 600 being seriously injured.  Often, the victims are individuals who are guiding the load, but everyone present at a work site is also vulnerable to such risks.  Planning is the most important preventative measure to take.  It is especially important to appoint someone to be in charge of safety planning at worksites and to follow OSHA and ANSI guidelines about distance restrictions from power lines.  A second major hazard is overloading.  OSHA reports “80 percent of all crane upsets and structural failures can be attributed to exceeding the crane’s operational capacity.”  Overloading most often causes loads to drop or swing inadvertently and oftentimes occurs when under qualified personnel are allowed to operate cranes.  It is essential all workers who operate cranes on sites are properly trained and utilize load-measuring systems rather than relying on instinct and experience to determine if a crane can handle a load.  The third and final major hazard is the case of materials falling.  Aside from materials falling from overloading, loads can also fall if they are improperly secured.  Statistics show that almost 20 people died in 2012 from accidents involving overhead hoists.  These loads are often heavy and cause serious damage and injury if dropped.  To reduce the risk of falling materials, it is crucial to perform regular maintenance checks and to make sure all loads are completely secured.  Generally, all workers who interact with or around cranes and other heavy-duty machinery should be aware of safety procedures and be sure to follow regulations by OSHA and the manufacturers of the machinery.

According to the Boston Herald, almost 900 drivers crashed into work zones on Massachusetts highways and roadways last year. This 35 percent spike has state police concerned. In response, law enforcement is increasing patrol efforts during summer months when deadly work zone wrecks are at their highest.

The Herald report was released following three work zone accidents that occurred over just four days. Each of the three accidents allegedly involved a drunk driver. “I can’t remember a span like this or a bunch like these,” said state police 
Superintendent Col. Richard 
McKeon. “It seems like it’s concentrated. It’s obviously come to our attention,” McKeon continued. “We’re going to be out there with enhanced visibility … and we’re going to be looking for any intoxicated drivers.”

In 2015, state police recorded 860 work zone crashes, up from 639 in 2014. So far in 2016, this number is 325, and that doesn’t factor in the majority of the summer season when accidents are at their peak. In addition, a total of 529 work-zone citations were issued last year for reckless driving, compared to just about 370 the year before.  This is a staggering increase in a very short period.

Texting and Distracted Driving Likely Play a Role in Crash Increase

According to MassDOT officials, the increase in accidents is not due to an increase in construction projects and road work. Approximately 125 work crews are stationed on Massachusetts roads every day, a number which has remained relatively unchanged in the past few years. Thomas P. Lacek, a crash expert from Pennsylvania, says distracted drivers and sudden lane restrictions are major contributors to work zone crashes. “Lane restrictions are a hassle. You are impeding traffic flow,” Lacek remarked. “What you need to do is give drivers plenty of warning. If they’re still not slowing down, you need to jack up enforcement.

“The problem is not just the lanes going down from three to one, but also people texting, fixing their makeup and reading the paper,” he continued.

Work Detail Cops Save Lives

Lack of supervision may also be to blame. In the Bay State’s recent string of work zone crashes, Thomas O’Day, a father of six, was killed at an Interstate 93 job site. In an eerily foreboding Facebook post from earlier that day, O’Day wrote, “No detail cop’s…awesome.” He added that it was “insane out here (on) 93.” Continue reading

 

Cranes are often used on construction and industrial sites to lift and move heavy objects.  They are often essential as they are one, if not the only, tool used to move objects that weigh thousands of pounds.  There are more than 125,000 cranes in use in the construction industry, as well as an additional 100,000 more used in general and maritime industries.  These cranes are operated by more than 250,000 workers.  Although invaluable, cranes can be extremely dangerous if not operated using the correct safety precautions.  The size of the crane itself, as well as the size of the materials it moves, can fatally injure workers and bystanders if the crane or the materials were to fall.  The most recent data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on crane accidents is from 2006.  There were 72 reported fatalities caused by crane accidents that year.  Over the decade prior to that from 1997 to 2006, there were 818 total workplace deaths as a result of crane accidents.  These fatal accidents were most commonly caused by objects falling from the cranes that then hit a worker or bystander.  Some other causes also include being run over by a crane, falling from a crane, and electrocution.

In numbers, 62 percent of deaths were caused by contact with object or equipment, 20 percent were due to falls, 10 percent were due to transportation incidents, and 8 percent were a result of contact with an electrical current.  Objects do not just fall from cranes without reason, however.  The most common causes of these accidents are use of crane for purposes outside of the manufacturer’s specifications, improper crane selection, poor weather, improper crane set up, and falling debris or other hazardous conditions surrounding the crane.  By following proper safety protocol, most crane accidents can be prevented.  It was found that 90 percent of crane accidents are caused by human error and 80 percent can be attributed to crane operators exceeding operational capacity.  That is why it is of the utmost importance that those operating such machinery be sufficiently trained and aware of the dangers of using cranes improperly.   The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) has estimated that up to 90 percent of crane operators do not have certification.  Therefore, it has recently revamped its safety regulations in order to reduce crane accidents. Continue reading

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

The “Fatal Four” of Construction Jobs

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

Beyond Construction

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

Deadliest Occupations

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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