Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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Articles Posted in Machinery Accidents

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

Rescue Workers Provided Intravenous Fluids and a Heater to Prevent Hypothermia

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

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

Trenching is a High-Risk Occupation

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

OSHA Standards for Trenching Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

OSHA Workplace Safety Standards

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

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

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

A man who was killed in a construction accident in Taunton on Monday has officially been identified by the district attorney’s office. 48 year old Kevin Miranda was killed when the construction lift he had been working on flipped over at the St. Mary’s School where the labor was taking place.

Miranda was from Somerset and Portsmouth, Rhode Island and had been working for the Taunton based company Skyline Contracting and Roofing at the time of the accident. The company was in the middle of an inspection for the Fall River Diocese for a smokestack located behind a Catholic elementary school in that area. At the time the accident occurred, Kevin Miranda had been operating a construction lift that had been provided to the worksite via NES Rentals. The lift had been positioned on a slope located on the land boundary between the elementary school and the neighboring Morton Hospital. The lift that Kevin Miranda was working on tipped over, causing his death. The extent and nature of his injuries was not made immediately available. Initial reports also did not provide any details on how exactly the lift had tipped over.

Following reports of the accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA) arrived on scene to begin an investigation into the accident. A spokesman for the company, Ted Fitzgerald, indicated that OSHA would be looking into possible evidence that would help them determine the cause of the accident. They are looking to determine if there were any workplace safety violations being committed that could have possibly led to the lift tipping over with Kevin Miranda inside of it. The company employing Miranda, Skyline Contracting and Roofing, has not provided comments on the matter at this time. Continue reading

From heavy machinery hazards to poor ergonomics, workplace injuries affect an estimated three million Americans annually. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970 to regulate workplace standards and advocate for safe and healthy environments for workers of all fields. Part of their mission is to provide “training, outreach, education and assistance” to both employers and employees alike. With an average of 4,500 workplace fatalities occurring every year, it is vital for all employees to be aware of steps they can take to reduce workplace injury risk. This may involve the design of a more ergonomically efficient desk area, or bringing worn or broken equipment to an employer’s attention. Ultimately, employers are responsible for creating a safe, hazard-free work culture. However, education and awareness on everyone’s part can dramatically reduce risk.

Overexertion Injuries

As the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, overexertion injuries result in approximately $3 million in annual benefit payments. Consistently lifting, pulling, or carrying heavy objects, and typing or working in an awkward position, can trigger muscle strain or soft tissue damage. These injuries are often acute, but usually heal with treatment. They may, however, become chronic if not treated properly or in a timely manner. Prevention measures include the following:

  • Lift lighter loads.
  • When lifting heavy objects to or from a shelf above you, use a step ladder or other secure object to decrease the distance.
  • Be aware of your posture.
  • Take frequent breaks and stretch continually.
  • Engage in strength training.
  • Know your limits.

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In the state Senate, a bill was introduced this year that could enhance the benefits allowed for injuries involving permanent disfigurement under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. Currently, workers here who sustain disfigurement on their legs, arms, and torsos are not entitled to work injury compensation for those injuries, although they may still receive other benefits for income loss, medical care, and non-scar based disfigurements.

Massachusetts workers’ compensation for permanent scarring is only provided for disfigurement that occurs to the neck, face, or hands. State workers’ compensation law awards a lump-sum payment to these permanently scarred or disfigured workers. If the injury is purely scar-based, the amount of the award will depend on the size of the scar and whether discoloration occurred.

The bill would allow workers disfigured on the lower areas of their body to get compensation too.

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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.

A male worker was killed after he was struck by a front-end loader in a Massachusetts industrial accident at Allied Waste Services in Peabody last month. According to police, the worker was clearing a drain when the incident happened. Joshua Black, 26, was from Wilmington.

First responders say that he was not breathing by the time they arrived. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the Peabody work accident.

In another recent Massachusetts industrial accident, also last month, co-workers found a 33-year-old worker injured on a conveyor belt in the Cargill Salt Company in Westfield. The belt is used to service a salt pile.

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined FedEx Ground Packaging System, Inc. upon finding an unguarded conveyor belt at the company’s Wilmington, MA shipping distribution center.

After inspecting the Wilmington facility, OSHA officials discovered that the belt conveyor system’s rotating parts were insufficiently guarded on the periphery to prevent employee’s fingers and hands from potentially becoming caught. Failing to guard the conveyor belt could have resulted in injuries, including pinched and crushed fingers and hands, concussions, abrasions and serious nerve damage. Proper machine guarding would ensure that no part of an employee’s body would come into contact with the machine’s moving parts.

According to OSHA’s records, the company has already twice been cited for similar safety violations in 2010 and 2011 at facilities in Grove City, Ohio, and in Syracuse, New York.

“It is critical for workers’ safety and health that an employer with multiple facilities, such as this, ensures that required safeguards are in place and maintained effectively at all times in all locations,” Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s acting deputy regional administrator for New England said.

Considering the company’s prior violations, OSHA cited FedEx for a repeat violation with a proposed fine of $44,000. According to OSHA, a repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
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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.
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A teenager from New York is being treated at a Boston hospital after severing his arm in a pasta machine at the Italian restaurant he worked at.

Restaurant manager Mia Violi of Violi’s Restaurant in Massena, NY said that the teenager had been cleaning the pasta machine when his right arm got caught and severed at the elbow. Employees are still trying to discern how the machine was activated while it was being cleaned. The 17 year-old was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital last Thursday and was listed in serious condition. According to WCVB, it has not been determine whether OSHA will be investigating the incident.

WORKPLACE AMPUTATIONS

Amputations are some of the most debilitating types of injuries that can occur in a workplace, and can involve a variety of types of machinery and occur during various types of activities. Often, according to OSHA, amputations are the result of employees operating unguarded or inadequately safeguarded machinery such as:

• Mechanical power presses • Powered and non-powered conveyor belts • Printing presses • Roll-forming/bending machines • Sheering machines • Food slicers • Meat-cutting saws • Drill presses • Milling machines
• Grinding machines • Slitters
These injuries may also occur during material-handling activities such as when using forklifts, trash compactors, and powered and non-powered tools. In addition to normal operations, preparation activities also expose employees to potential hazards; setting up, threading, preparing, adjusting, cleaning, lubricating and maintaining, and clearing jams.

Preventing Amputation

Before operating any type of machinery, employees should conduct a hazard analysis; a technique that focuses on the relationship between the machine, the employee, the type of work being done, and the risk for potential injury. Additionally, employees should regularly inspect and service machinery to ensure it is running properly and does not pose hazards to operators.

The following types of mechanical hazards include:

Pinch points; where two points move together with one operating in a circle; commonly found on belt drives, chain drives, gear drives, or feeder rolls.

Wrap points; occurs when there is an exposed piece of rotating machinery, like a rotating shaft. These points can easily catch clothing or fingers.

Shear points; where two moving parts move across one another or a single sharp edge moves with enough speed or force to cut; commonly found on conveyers, trimmers, and forklifts.

Crush points; occurs when two objects are moving toward one another with enough force to crush an object that is caught in between. Gears on conveyer belts or other machinery, as well as pressing machines pose this hazard.

Pull-in points; points where objects outside of machine are at risk of being pulled into equipment. Feeder rolls and grinders have pull-in points.

Thrown objects; objects that are flung by machinery or moving parts; wood chippers are a common source of thrown objects.
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