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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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