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.

Articles Posted in Workplace Hazards

When a chronic medical condition is a result of your work environment, it may be considered an occupational disease.  Any worker in Massachusetts needs to know that any exposures to toxins, poor air quality, and lack of proper ergonomics can all contribute to a vast array of debilitating medical conditions and diseases. Tracing the signs and symptoms back to the work environment can be challenging, as many occupational diseases can also be experienced by the general public. However, approximately 860,000 illnesses and 60,300 fatalities are thought to be a result of workplace environments annually in the United States. Recent studies show that 17% of hospital and primary care patients believe their illness is related to harmful exposure in their place of employment. Of these patients, an estimated 10% are officially diagnosed with a work-related medical condition. Because early diagnosis of many illnesses can reduce chances of disability or death, understanding potential hazards you may be exposed to is important.

Respiratory Diseases

Inhalation of toxins can cause a variety of lung conditions and is a concern in many different industries. Asthma, rhino-sinusitis, and bronchitis are frequently cited as work-related medical issues. Pneumoconiosis is a general, umbrella term referring to various types of reactions to the inhalation of dust. The number of fatalities from pneumoconiosis was 260,000 in 2013.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a type of pneumoconiosis caused by extended or intensive exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral made of long thin fibrous crystals that irritate the tissues in the lungs. Occupational exposure can occur in manufacturing and mining work, as well asbestos removal. Severe shortness of breath and dry coughing are common symptoms. Risks of long-term inhalation can lead to malignant cancers and mesothelioma. In 2013, asbestosis resulted in 24,000 fatalities in the United States. Continue reading

A worker was injured in an Amherst construction accident when a granite slab weighing about 700 pounds fell on him while he was on the job at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. Carlos Velasquez injured his hip, shoulder, and leg. He was transported to a Springfield hospital.

The Massachusetts work accident took place while the 55-year-old worker was underpinning supports for a renovation and expansion project. Velazquez is employed by Schnabel Foundation Co. The Springfield company is the subcontractor for this job.

The impact of the granite slab falling onto Velasquez pushed him into an excavated area. Workers removed the slab from his body.

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As part of commemorating Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday, labor leaders in Springfield read the names of the 62 people killed in Massachusetts work accidents in the last 16 months—that’s a little over one death a week. National Council for Occupational Safety and Heath director Mary Vogel said that most of the worker injury deaths could have been prevented if only there had been the necessary safety-minded precautions and procedures in place.

Workers’ Memorial Day—April 28—marks the annual anniversary of when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970. Last year, there were 4,500 workplace fatalities in the U.S.—a figure that has stayed pretty consistent in the last few years. Many more workers sustained injuries or work-related diseases because of their jobs.

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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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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

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

Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rules, private-sector employers must fulfill tougher reporting requirements for injuries on the job. Now, employers have to report all work-related deaths within eight hours and give notification of any eye losses, amputations, and inpatient hospitalizations within 24 hours of discovery.

The new requirements went into effect on January 1. Employers can report an incident either by calling the closest OSHA area office, contacting the OSHA hotline, or submitting a report online.

Previous to that, employees had to notify the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration of all workplace deaths or when at least three workers injured in the same incident were hospitalized.

According to OSHA’s Dr. David Michaels, who is the assistant secretary of labor, the reporting requirements were created to help save lives. Hopefully, workers and employers will become more able to more easily identify serious hazards on the job. Even employers in specific low-harm industries who are partly exempt from routinely maintaining OSHA illness and injury records must now abide by the tougher reporting requirements.

In 2013, 4,404 U.S. workers were killed while doing their job.

Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation
If you are a worker that was seriously injured on the job you should file your Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim right away. You should also speak with a Boston work injury lawyer who can make sure that you are getting all of the benefits that you are owed for your injuries. Loved ones who have lost a family member in a work accident or because of a work-related disease may be entitled to death benefits.

Unfortunately, disputes may arise between an injured worker and an employer over whether or not benefits are owed. That’s just one of the reasons you want to make sure you have an experienced legal representative looking out for you. If other parties that were not your employer were involved, you may be able to file a third-party Massachusetts personal injury claim for damages.

Depending on the severity of your work injury, you may not be able to return to your job for a while, if ever again. Obtaining the benefits and compensation you are owed could help offset some of the costs and losses. Your recovery and well-being is important during this challenging time.

Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today.

OSHA announces new requirements for reporting severe injuries and updates list of industries exempt from record-keeping requirements, OSHA, September 11, 2014

Stricter OSHA reporting rules set to take effect, Providence Journal, January 3, 2015

More Blog Posts:
Domestic Workers in Massachusetts Soon to Get Employment and Labor Protections, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, December 27, 2014
Ruling in Cruise Ship Injury Case Could Determine Whether Medical Malpractice Damages Could Finally Come Into Play, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, January 9, 2015
Lipitor Injury Lawsuit Against Pfizer Blame Drug for Diabetes, Massachusetts Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, January 9, 2015

Massachusetts truckers are subject to serious injuries when doing their job and not just when they are involved in a truck crash. That said, although truck drivers are often portrayed as safer than most people when involved in a collision-seated behind all that truck metal and at a more elevated height in their cab than other motorists in smaller vehicles-they they too can suffer catastrophic injuries and die.

If you or someone you love sustained such a serious injury, you should speak with a Boston workers’ compensation lawyer right away rather try settling with your employer or their insurer on your own.

While truck drivers cannot sue their employer for Massachusetts personal injury, depending on what exactly happened and who else was involved, a trucker may be able to pursue civil damages from third parties, such as the negligent other driver, the company that hired the trucker, and others.

Examples of Common Truck Injuries:
• Spinal cord injury from involvement in a truck accident or at a worksite accident. SCIs can lead to paralysis, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and other health issues. Even if a trucker fully recovers, he/she may not be emotionally fit to go back to spending long hours driving on the road.

• Musculoskeletal disorders can occur when loading or unloading cargo from the truck and from the related heavy lifting. Such injuries may make it hard for a truck driver to drive a large vehicle, especially for extended periods of time.

• Injuries from fall accidents at elevated heights, including falls from the truck’s cab. Slip and fall accidents may also happen.

• Motor vehicle-related injuries. Most truck driver injuries occurred in traffic crashes. Spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, organ damage, paralysis, and death may result.

• Injuries from getting hit by an object. This can happen when a worker is lifting objects, attaching trailers, or opening containers.

• Back pain and neck injuries from hours of driving, lifting heavy objects, and dealing with the constant vibration of a moving truck.

• Repetitive strain injuries from lowering the landing gear, pulling the fifth wheel pin, and lowering and lifting the truck hood.

• Lower extremity injuries from accidents on the job, as well as from sitting for so long or frequent use of the gas pedal.

Truck drivers who end up with lasting injuries or disabilities may find that they are at a loss of income with no other means of making a living. Chronic pain can make it hard to enjoy a normal quality of life. Ensuring that you get all of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits you are owed can help.

Cape Cod Drowning Death is Second Swimming Fatality at Yarmouth Hotel in Four Months, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, December 18, 2014

Fall River Construction Worker Dies While Working On Natural Gas Lines in Road Project, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, December 12, 2014

Consolidation of Xarelto Injury Lawsuits Gets Opposition from Bayer, Johnson & Johnson
, Massachusetts Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, December 5, 2014

A Fall River worker was recently killed when he was struck by a piece of construction equipment in the head. The “fusing machine” swung toward 45-year-old Paulo Matos, fatally injuring him after workers lost control of the device. At the time, the construction worker was working on natural gas lines in a road project.

Matos worked for AGI Construction, a contracting company. The state’s Department of Transportation and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the work accident.

Please contact our Massachusetts worker’s compensation lawyers today if you or your loved one were seriously injured in an accident on the job. You typically cannot sue your employer but you should be entitled to work injury benefits. Also, other parties who were involved in the job but are not your employer could potentially be held liable if their negligence contributed to the construction accident injury or death.

For example, recently, the parents of Drew Kimberl sued a construction company for $10 million, seeking wrongful death damages. The 18-year-old and three other workers were unbolting 588-pound panels while disassembling a temporary bridge earlier this year when the panels dropped on Kimberl, crushing him.

The Kimberls name GLF Construction Corp. and the Florida Department of Transportation in their wrongful death lawsuit. They claim that the two entities failed to keep a proper work site and did not tell workers about the dangers involved in the job.

They contend that Kimberl was hired the year before his death even though he had no previous construction experience. The Kimberls say their son never had to attend a safety meeting.

Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation

Construction sites can be a dangerous place of work. It is the responsibility of those in charge of the project and workers to maintain a safe environment. Even if a worker played a part in causing his/her work injury/death, this would not exempt him from his right to receive Massachusetts workers’ compensation damages.

Police ID construction worker killed in Warwick, WPRI, November 13, 2014

Swinging equipment blamed in death of construction worker, Warwick Beacon, November 13, 2014

Family files $10M suit in construction death
, Tallahassee Democrat, December 12, 2014

More Blog Posts:
How Cold Is Too Cold? Tips for Protecting Workers During the Winter Months, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, November 30, 2014
Hundreds of Risperdal Lawsuits Blame Drug For Causing Gynecomastia in Males, Drug Injury Lawyers Blog, November 19, 2014
NHTSA Probes Graco Car Seat Recall, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, December 2, 2014

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