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.

It may be months before investigators conclude their probe into the construction accident that killed three workers on Monday. The deadly incident happened when a piece of scaffolding—known as the mast climber scaffold—fell to the ground, causing construction workers who were on it to fall 200 feet. A fourth worker was taken to the hospital with injuries. The incident occurred in North Carolina.

The scaffolding had been attached to a new building. One of its tracks snapped off, causing the equipment to fall onto the ground.

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In a recent Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog post, we wrote about an NPR and ProPublica probe that found that recent workers’ compensation reforms are hurting more than helping injured workers. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued its report that reflects similar findings.

According to OSHA’s report, statistics show that over three million workers are hurt every year, with thousands killed while doing their job. These figures do not include incidents that go unreported and chronic illnesses that continue even after exposure on the job to hazardous substances has stopped.

Many workers who were seriously hurt find it hard to keep working—especially as modifications to workers comp. insurance programs have made it harder for someone who was hurt on the job to get full benefits. Employers are now taking care of just a small portion of overall workplace injury and illness costs through their work injury compensation programs.

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An appeals court has reversed an earlier ruling allowing General Motors to decrease the work injury benefits it was giving to a retiree who was hurt while on the job. The Michigan Court of Appeals said that UAW, the union for America’s autoworkers, lacked the authority to vote to modify collective bargaining for workers who had already retired. The court noted that there was no evidence showing that the plaintiff gave the union the authority to represent him to change the agreement that he retired under.

Some 1800 GM retirees saw a reduction in their benefits in 2010 because of a law, passed in the 90’s, which let companies reduce workers’ compensation checks by how much they were getting in their disability pension. For a long time GM and UAW agreed they would not reduce the checks until workers had turned at least 65. However, in the wake of GM’s financial problems, a deal was struck in 2009 between the union and the automaker to make cuts to workers’ compensation benefits.

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According to a National Public Radio and ProPublica investigation, in recent years states across the country have been taking apart the workers’ compensation system. This has proven financially disastrous for the many workers who are seriously hurt on the job.

The reforms have reportedly been so drastic that they practically guaranteed that a seriously injured worker would have to struggle financially. Also, many injured workers and their families are now spending years fighting with insurers for the prescriptions, surgeries, and medical help that they need.

That’s why it is so important that now, more than ever, a worker who is injured on the job speak to a Boston workers’ compensation lawyer right away. You have benefits and rights to which you are entitled and they should be protected.

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In the last few weeks, over 100 inches of snow have fallen on parts of Massachusetts. This has led to massive efforts to clear snow and ice off roofs and roads. The snow clearings have placed numerous workers and homeowners in high-risk situations.

There have been at least two workers that were involved in Canton, MA work accidents. One man fell some 40 feet through a skylight while evaluating snow removal operations. The skylight had been covered in snow when he stepped on it. The worker was later pronounced dead at a Brockton hospital.

Also injured in a Canton, MA roof fall was another worker, who was also clearing snow. In an Avon, MA roof collapse, another worker was hurt in roof fall from a skylight.

Earlier this week, our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer blog reported on a teen worker who was hurt while shoveling snow off the roof of a department store. The 17-year-old also fell through a skylight and plunged almost 25 feet. The Westwood, MA worker accident took place at a clothing store.

Town employees are especially at risk of fall accidents when clearing snow from roofs. Public employees will often lack the experience needed to do such work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that it has responded to seven fatal incidents where snow removal was involved. Meantime, the Massachusetts’ Department of Labor Standards has put out a bulletin to notify public employers about the safety requirements that must be met before snow clearing off roofs is allowed, including:

• If possible, use snow removal methods that don’t involve workers getting on the roof
• Provide fall protection equipment
• Guard skylights to protect workers from falls
• Make sure skylights, vents, and roof drains have been identified and marked so that workers don’t trip or fall because of them
• Keep away from electrical power lines to avoid electrocution injuries
• Make sure that the additional weight of having workers on the roof doesn’t overwhelm the structure
• Properly train workers so that they can work safely when clearing snow and ice from the roof.

As we’ve noted, it’s not just workers who are getting hurt while clearing snow off roofs. A Canton woman was taken to the hospital when she fell off the roof of her home. Another man in Wellesley sustained shoulder injuries after he was hit by ice and snow that fell on him while he was clearing accumulations from a trellis outside his residence.

There also have been reports of roof collapses involving snow and ice where no one was injured but there was property damage. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said that over just two weeks there were more than 130 reports of roof collapses.

The problem is that with temperatures seldom going over the freezing point lately, snow that lands on rooftops has kept accumulating without any of it melting. This has placed a strain on the roofs of many buildings, especially nonresidential ones, such as warehouses and commercial buildings that are flat-roofed.

In Massachusetts, please contact our Boston workers’ compensation law firm if you were injured on the job.

Removing Snow from Rooftops on Municipal and State Property, Department of Labor Standards (PDF)

Avon Roof Collapse Victim Remains Unidentified, The Enterprise, February 25, 2015

2 Canton deaths reinforce risks of snow removal from roofs, The Boston Globe, February 23, 2015

More Blog Posts:
Teen Worker Falls 25 Feet While Shoveling Roof in Westwood, MA, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, February 25, 2015

University of Massachusetts Amherst Student Sues Police for Assault, False Arrest, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, February 27, 2015

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology May Be Coming Soon According to MIT Review, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, February 27, 2015

A 17-year-old student, part of a work crew shoveling snow off of a department store roof, was injured after falling through a skylight.

Officials say the teen was helping to remove snow at Frugal Fannie’s clothing store in Westwood yesterday morning when he fell. Witnesses say he fell nearly 25 feet; his fall was broken by one of the store’s clothing racks. However the extent of the young man’s injuries remains unclear. The teen was flown to an area hospital by helicopter.

This unfortunate story is one of many that we’ve heard in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast as our region continues to be blasted with heavy snowfall. Last week, two people in Canton were fatally injured due to roof falls and two horses died when the barn they were kept in collapsed.

According to The Patch, MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency), there have been more than 130 reports of roof collapses in just two weeks in the state. Many of the injuries sustained were directly from roofs collapsing under weight of snow, or people falling while attempting to remove snow from their roofs.
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According to a court ruling, an undocumented Mexican worker who gave his employer false identification is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries he sustained on the job. Mario Arellano, who gave a fake Social Security card, along with a driver’s license, to L & L Enterprises, hurt his back while riding in the back of a work truck.

Arellano’s injuries included a lumbar sprain and acute back pain. Arellano filed a workers’ compensation claim but the state of Wyoming denied it, contending that he did not give medical documentation to back his claim and failed to prove he was allowed to work in the United States.

An examiner from the state’s administrative hearing office said that although Arellano proved his back injury was because of his job, he did not succeed in demonstrating that he was covered under workers’ compensation law. The examiner denied Arellano the benefits and he appealed. A district court reversed the examiner’s ruling.

Arellano’s employer then appealed. However, a Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court. It found that state law only mandates that an employer “reasonably” determine the work status of an employee using the documentation presented during hiring and available up through to the injury incident. The court pointed out that this way of interpreting the law protects employers who then don’t have to worry about being sued.

Undocumented workers who are injured on the job are entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits. Contact our Boston work injury law firm today.

Injured undocumented worker entitled to comp, Business Insurance, February 19, 2015

Worker’s Compensation, Mass.gov

More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Nursing Assistants Sustain Back Injuries, Repetitive Trauma, Other Work Injuries, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2015

Johnson & Johnson Settles Four Transvaginal Mesh Cases
, Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, February 6, 2015

Tow Truck Driver Fatally Struck on Massachusetts Turnpike While Helping A Disabled Vehicle, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, February 13, 2015

NPR reports that according to statistics from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor, nursing employees sustain over 35,000 back and other injuries each year. These injuries are serious enough that they warrant taking time off from work.

Nursing employees are also three times more likely than construction laborers to suffer musculoskeletal injuries. Registered nurses aren’t far behind after warehouse workers, truck drivers, and store clerks.

The main causes of these injuries are the duties of lifting and moving patients, which nursing employees do every day. During a typical day, a worker might lift a patient weighing much more than the employee at least a dozen times a day. This may lead to back pain, sprains, strains, and shoulder injuries.

One reason for the injury risk is that there is no way to safely lift a patient manually. While some hospitals have sought to remedy this hazard with special machinery lifts and intensive staff training, most medical facilities have not taken such measures.

As an injured nursing employee, you are likely entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. It doesn’t matter who or what caused your injuries on the job.

Back injuries aren’t the only common type of nursing injury. Repetitive stress, getting bloodborne infectious disease from needle punctures, physical injuries from violent assaults by mentally ill or violent patients, slip and fall injuries, sprains and strains to the lower back and shoulders, slipped discs, and infections or viruses.

Hospitals fail to protect nursing staff from becoming patients, NPR, February 4, 2015
What makes hospitals such hazardous workplaces?, OSHA

More Blog Posts:
Best Western Sued Over Couple’s Carbon Monoxide Deaths, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, February 3, 2015

Johnson & Johnson Settles Four Transvaginal Mesh Cases, Massachusetts Drug Injury Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2015

OSHA Orders Ashley Furniture to Pay $1.7M After More Than 1,000 Workers Injured, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, February 7, 2015

Ashley Furniture Industry Inc. has been fined $1.76M because its workers have gotten hurt in over 1,000 work-related injuries in the last three-and-a-half years. Following an incident last summer when one worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a probe of the facility and found numerous willful, repeated, and serious safety violations.

The furniture company has also been put on the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for not addressing certain safety hazards. OSHA contends that Ashley Furniture purposely ignored the agency’s standards, as well as the company’s own safety manuals, to increase worker productivity levels. The company is accused of blaming workers for their injuries, which were actually caused by the unsafe working conditions created at Ashley Furniture.

OSHA said that the furniture maker did not act to protect workers from getting hurt by moving machine parts or prevent machines from unintentionally activating when machineries were being serviced. These kinds of violations can lead to permanent disability and death.

OSHA said Ashley Furniture did not properly train workers about safety procedures and the hazards that exist when servicing machinery. There were also inadequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to materials that were corrosive. Certain machines lacked readily-accessibly emergency-stop buttons, and electrical safety violations were committed.

Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation
It doesn’t matter who was at fault in causing your Boston work injury. Even if no one was at fault or you caused your own work accident, you are likely entitled to Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. This means that although you cannot sue your employer, you should get medical benefits, and, depending on the extent of your injuries: temporary total incapacity benefits, partial incapacity benefits, permanent loss of function and disfigurement benefits, or permanent and total capacity benefits. If your loved one was a worker who died in a work accident, you should be entitled to survivors’ benefits or dependents’ benefits.

OSHA fines Ashley Furniture $1.77 million, StarTribune, February 2, 2015
Ashley Furniture faces $1.76M in fines after OSHA finds more than 1,000 worker injuries at Wisconsin site in past 36 months, Department of Labor, February 2, 2015
Labor and Workforce Development, Mass.gov

Severe Violator Enforcement Program, OSHA


More Blog Posts:

NYC’s DEP Liable for $3 Million in Damages After Worker Injured, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, January 31, 2015
Johnson & Johnson Settles Four Transvaginal Mesh Cases, Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, February 6, 2015

New Rules Allow Frail Elders to Continue Residing in Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2015

A $3 million pain and suffering award has been reinstated against the New York City Department of Environmental Protection after it was found to be in violation of state labor laws.

Rafael Lopez filed suit against the city and the department collectively due to injuries he sustained while working on the construction site at Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant is currently owned by the City of New York and managed by the New York Department of Environmental Protection.

According to reports, Lopez fell backward and was impaled by an uncapped piece of vertical rebar (steel reinforcement), which ultimately caused him to sustain serious life-long injuries. He required multiple hospitalizations, spinal fusion surgery and physical therapy. Considering the nature and extent of Lopez’s injuries, the jury awarded him compensation for past and future pain and suffering totaling $5 million. City officials denied any liability o accident and raised issues of comparative negligence, a common defense to a labor lawsuit.

Unfortunately for Mr. Lopez, he was unsuccessful after the Kings County Supreme court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.
On appeal, the city moved for a new trial on the future pain and suffering damages. “The court agreed with the original jury award stating the $2 million past pain and suffering did not materially deviate from reasonable compensation and for the same reason the award for $3 million future pain and suffering would be reinstated. ”
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