What is Workers’ Compensation and how does it work in Massachusetts?

Workers' Compensation provides wage replacement coverage to Massachusetts workers who are injured in on-the-job accidents. Filing a workers' compensation claim can an extremely complicated process. Doing so without the help of an experienced Boston workers' compensation lawyer can be stressful and overwhelming, often resulting in delayed benefits, reduced benefits, or no benefits at all.

Most work-related injuries are eligible for workers' comp benefits, but employers and insurance companies rarely make the process an easy one. With the help of a skilled workers' compensation lawyer, your chances of receiving full benefits in a timely manner are significantly improved. If you've been injured on the job, and are not sure what to do next, give us a call and we will explain what benefits you should be receiving.

Although workers' comp effectively removes the employee's right to sue the employer, third-party claims may still be filed against a vendor or contractor if third-party negligence played a role.

Common Accidents Covered by Workers' Compensation:

Most work-related injuries are covered, even if the injury was the employee's fault. Some of the most commonly-cited workers' comp accidents include:

  • Crane accidents
  • Scaffolding accidents
  • Industrial accidents
  • Construction site blasting accidents
  • Trench and excavation accidents
  • Accidental electrocution

When a worker reports an on-the-job accident, an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will usually follow. If the employer is found to be in violation of OSHA standards, fines and penalties may be imposed. Contact our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers at Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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Workers' Compensation is supposed to guarantee certain benefits to workers who get injured on the job, including coverage of medical expenses, wage replacement, and additional compensation for permanent injuries and death. Unfortunately, receiving these benefits is not always an easy task. With the help of an experienced Boston workers' compensation attorney, your chances of receiving full benefits in a timely manner are greatly improved.

Workers' compensation pays benefits for work-related injuries that result in partial disability, disfigurement and/or loss of function, total disability, permanent disability, and death. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our knowledgeable legal team has an impressive track record of protecting clients from difficult insurance companies and employers. Our attorneys are skilled at negotiating for the highest possible settlements to be paid immediately.

In addition to ensuring you get the full benefits you deserve in a timely manner, Altman & Altman, LLP will fight to get additional benefits when appropriate. For example, if you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or a serious burn injury, the "full" workers' comp benefits may not cover all of your costs. Further, if a third party, such as a machine manufacturer or negligent contractor, played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation.

At Altman & Altman, LLP, we will thoroughly examine all details of your case to determine the best method of recovery for your unique situation. We will file claims against any and all negligent parties so that you receive the highest settlement or verdict possible. If you've been injured in a work-related accident and need an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney, contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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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.

In October 2016, two employees of Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc. died when the trench they were working in collapsed. The trench was adjacent to a fire hydrant supply line, which broke in the collapse, filling the trench with water and killing Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation into the incident, and found that Atlantic Drain had failed in its duty to provide safety training and safeguards against collapse. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been injured in a work-related accident.

“The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented. Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility,” said OSHA’s New England regional administrator, Galen Blanton.

The Massachusetts Workers Compensation Act states that workers’ compensation is provided for “emotional disabilities only where the predominant contributing cause of such disability is an event or series of events occurring within any employment.” Basically, this means that an employee may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits for emotional injuries, but only if a work-related event was the primary cause of that injury.

If a work-related event or events results in stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression, an employee may be entitled to workers compensation. But certain requirements must be met. Simply claiming that your job is stressful isn’t going to work; you have to show that a specific event, such as sexual assault or harassment, directly caused your stress. If you can answer yes to the following questions, your condition will likely be covered.

  • Have you developed a permanent impairment due to the stressful event or events?
  • Can you prove that a work event directly caused your stress?
  • Was the stressful event outside the norm for this particular job?

Outside the Norm

Consider the third question above: Was the stressful event outside the norm? This is important because you cannot recover workers’s comp for a “stressful event” that you should have known is just a normal part of the job. For example, construction workers routinely work at high elevations. Although heights may be stressful for some people, working from high places is a normal part of construction work. As such, a workers’ comp claim for height-induced stress will probably be denied.

A MA workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine if you qualify for benefits following a work-related stress injury. But there are things you can do to expedite the process and improve your chances of success. For starters, keeping a journal of stressful events that are occurring at work can be immensely helpful if you decide to apply for benefits or bring a personal injury lawsuit. And although workers’ comp covers most work-related injuries, if negligence or misconduct played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses.

What if I Have PTSD?

Workers’ compensation claims are complex; this is especially true when the injury is emotional. Stress is a relatively broad term, but PTSD is a form of stress caused by a specific traumatic event or series of traumatic events. For example, soldiers often come back from combat with PTSD, and people may experience PTSD after a serious car accident or an assault. If a serious work event has caused you trauma that negatively impacts your ability to do your job, you may qualify for workers’ compensation. Some symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Violent or self-destructive behavior
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Chronic nightmares
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

All of the symptoms above can make it difficult to hold a job. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are suffering from work-related stress or PTSD. Continue reading

A 54-year-old heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) worker died Tuesday after he fell 30 to 35 feet from the roof of the Blackstone Valley Cinema De Lux. John B. Folkes of Canton worked for Medford-Wellington Service Co., a heating/ventilation/air conditioning vendor contracted by the cinema.

According to police, the 911 call came in at 12:22 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The caller reported that a man had fallen from the cinema’s roof. When emergency responders arrived to the scene, another worker was performing CPR, but Folkes was unresponsive. Emergency medical services personnel rushed the victim to Mass Memorial Medical Center – University Campus in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead.

Folkes was alone on the roof when the incident occurred. He was working with a four-foot square aluminum heat exchanger at the time. There were no witnesses or video of the 30 to 35-foot fall. State police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the incident. According to police, the fall appears to be an accident and no foul play is suspected.

Work-Related Falls

Same-level falls are more common than falls from high places, but elevated falls are more likely to result in serious injuries and death. The following statistics about elevated falls illustrate how serious this type of accident can be. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine if negligence contributed to your work-related accident.

  • More than 60 percent of elevated falls occur at less than 10 feet.
  • Slips, trips, and falls account for about 15 percent of all work-related accidental deaths.
  • Slips, trips, and falls also account for between 12 and 15 percent of annual workers’ comp costs.
  • Each slip, trip, and fall accident costs employers about $40,000.

According to OSHA, the hazards that most commonly lead to fatal falls from high places are:

  • Unprotected roof edges
  • Roof and floor openings or holes
  • Improper construction of scaffolds
  • Unsafe ladders or improper ladder use

H0w to Prevent Falls

The best way to dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury or death in a work-related fall is through proper safety training and the use of safety equipment. If you are working at heights of six feet or higher, your employer should provide you with the appropriate fall protection equipment, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), and the appropriate ladders and scaffolds for the particular job. Training programs should be required for new workers, and ongoing training should be regularly provided to anyone who is working at heights of six feet or higher. A Boston work injury lawyer can evaluate the details of your case to determine if employer negligence played a role in your injuries.  Continue reading

A 54-year old Boston recently died after falling from scaffolding at a Waltham construction site. The man, who has not been identified, was unresponsive when first responders arrived to the scene, at 427 Lincoln Street. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he died from severe head injuries. According to police, the incident is under investigation by state police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The man worked for a gutter company based in Watertown.

Scaffolding Dangers

Scaffolding accidents occur across the country with relative frequency. The statistics below show just how dangerous it can be to work on scaffolding, especially when OSHA’s safety guidelines are not followed:

  • Each year, about 10,000 construction workers are injured in scaffolding accidents in the United States.
  • Dozens of these accidents result in death.
  • About 72 percent of these accidents are caused by structural problems, workers slipping and falling, or workers being struck by falling objects or debris.

Fatal scaffolding accidents are frequently caused by third-party negligence. Negligence occurs when those responsible for safely assembling or maintaining the scaffolding do not do their job. The scaffolding manufacturer may also be on the hook if design or manufacturing defects contributed to the accident. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine who is responsible for your injuries.

How to Prevent Scaffolding Accidents

The good news is, the majority of annual scaffolding accidents are easily preventable by following established safety protocol at all times. If you believe that your employer is neglecting to follow the safety guidelines below, you should report your concerns to a supervisor. If your supervisor fails to address your concerns, you can always contact OSHA. The agency will come to your work site to assess the situation.

  • Scaffolding should always be erected on solid, stable ground.
  • Scaffolds should have guardrails and toe boards.
  • Ropes used to suspend scaffolds must be kept a safe distance from sources of heat.
  • Scaffolds should be at least 10 feet from power lines at all times.
  • Scaffolds and scaffold accessories should be regularly inspected for safety problems.
  • Scaffolds and scaffold accessories should receive regular maintenance.
  • A management alert system should be established for the reporting of broken or defective parts.
  • Broken or defective parts should be fixed or replaced immediately.
  • Workers should receive regular safety training and refresher courses.
  • Employers should provide workers with necessary safety equipment, such as harnesses.
  • Spills and debris should be regularly cleaned from scaffolds to prevent falls.

Following the tips above can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death in a scaffolding accident. Even with these efforts, however, injuries do still occur. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been injured in any type of work-related accident. Continue reading

According to a recent National Safety Council survey, more than 70 percent of employers nationwide report being directly affected by the misuse of prescription drugs in their workplaces. Despite this, only 39 percent of employers surveyed view prescription drug abuse as a safety threat, and even less – 24 percent – consider it to be a measurable problem. And although 71 percent of U.S. employers agree that abuse of prescription drugs is a disease that requires treatment, 65 percent consider it a justifiable reason for employee termination. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been terminated due to a substance abuse disorder.

The results above show the significant gap between the actual cost of prescription drug abuse for U.S. workplaces, and employer perception. The reality is that substance abuse costs American taxpayers more than $440 billion each year. Businesses suffer significant losses due to healthcare costs, low productivity, and absenteeism of workers with addictions. However, research has shown that it benefits both employer and employee when the employer helps get the employee into treatment. In fact, doing so can save the employer up to $2,607 per year. But a change in employer perception is crucial to a positive outcome. As long as 65 percent of employers feel that employee termination is the answer to addiction issues, the possibility of employer-initiated treatment programs is slim. But firing and re-hiring may actually cost much more in the long run.

Statistics From the National Safety Council Report

The following statistics about substance abuse in the workplace were revealed during the survey:

  • Employees with substance abuse disorders are absent nearly 50 percent more often than their peers.
  • Workers with substance abuse disorders miss up to six weeks of work each year.
  • The industries that suffer the most from substance abuse disorders include entertainment, construction, and food service businesses; these industries have twice the national average of employees with these disorders.
  • Female-dominated industries have a two-thirds lower rate of these disorders.
  • Untreated substance use disorders cost employers between $2,600 and $13,000 per worker, annually.
  • Workers in recovery are less likely to miss work, and have significantly lower turnover rates.
  • By providing assistance, employers in some industries could save more than $8,400 per worker.
  • The cost of healthcare for a worker with a substance abuse disorder is three times that of the cost for an average worker.

“This is a wakeup call for businesses. When it comes to addiction’s cost in the workplace, the numbers are staggering,” said Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof, one of the companies that contributed to the National Safety Council report. To show employers the importance of having a workplace prescription drug abuse program, Shatterproof and the National Safety Council have developed the Substance Use Cost Calculator, which allows employers to calculate how this crisis is impacting their workplace. A MA injury lawyer can help if you have been fired because of a substance abuse disorder.

“Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the National Safety Council’s president and CEO. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business. As the tool shows, the cost of inaction is far too great.” Continue reading

Men suffer more workplace injuries than women, but millions of women are joining the workforce in traditionally male-dominated jobs every year. And according to data from the Department of Labor, 57.2 percent of the 128 million working age women in the US have at least a part time job. In the 1950s, the same could be said for only 34 percent of working age women. Although women employed in high-risk industries, such as construction, see the greatest number of workplace injuries, all jobs have the potential to cause injury.

Common Fatal Workplace Injuries Suffered by Women

In 2014, workplace deaths among women increased by 13 percent from the previous year. Some work-related accidents are disproportionately common among women. In 2014, the most common causes of fatal workplace accidents included:

  • Homicides: Accounting for 19 percent of work-related deaths among women, workplace homicides are a leading cause of work-related death among US women. In 2010, there were 506 homicides reported in US workplaces, which is the lowest recorded total of all time. However, despite the decline in overall workplace homicides, they increased by 13% for women.
  • Motor vehicle accidents: Also one of the leading causes of fatal work injuries for male workers, about 19 percent of work-related deaths among women are due to roadway accidents. To reduce serious injury and death, it is crucial that all workers who drive on the job receive consistent and adequate safety training. A MA injury lawyer can help if you’ve lost a loved one in a work-related accident.
  • Slip and fall accidents: Falls, slips, and trips often occur indoors, where most women tend to work. To dramatically reduce fatal injuries from this type of accident, it is essential to keep work spaces clean and clutter free, immediately wipe up spills, make sure walkways are well lit, and improve workers’ safety behaviors through regular training.
  • Struck by object: When women work in industries such as manufacturing and construction, their risk of fatal accidents can be reduced through proper training, the use of safety equipment, and adherence to safety rules and regulations.

Women are also fatally injured in other jobs, including plant work, where workers may be exposed to toxic chemicals and gasses. These industries also have a higher potential for fires and explosions. A Boston workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a workplace accident.

Nonfatal injuries that disproportionately affect female workers include:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Infectious diseases
  • Respiratory problems
  • Reproductive problems (sometimes caused by exposure to harmful chemicals)
  • Anxiety and other stress disorders
  • Incidents specific to healthcare jobs, such as needlesticks

Hostile Work Environments and Stress

As women tend to experience more family conflict than men, emotional and stress disorders can  be compounded by home demands. When you consider that approximately 75 percent of single mothers work at least part time, it isn’t difficult to understand how stress can take a toll, both mentally and physically. In addition, women frequently have to deal with hostile work environments. They may be unfairly treated, or even sexually harassed by supervisors and other coworkers. This type of environment can make it difficult for women to feel comfortable reporting safety concerns, which can further add to the stress and anxiety that many female workers experience. Not to mention the distractions that come from hostile work environments. In some occupations, such as construction or plant work, a split-second distraction can be deadly. Continue reading

Dozens of construction workers are injured in crane accidents annually in the United States. Injuries and fatalities occur among the men and women operating the cranes as well as to workers and others on the ground. Crane accidents and collapses are one of the deadliest types of construction accidents, accounting for about 40 deaths every year. Read on for more information about common causes of crane accidents and how to prevent them.

Common Crane Accident Causes

Crane accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, including user error and equipment defects. But the most common causes include:

  • Cranes coming into contact with power lines: Nearly 39 percent of all crane accidents are caused when the crane comes into contact with overhead power lines. If any part of the crane, including the boom or cables, makes contact with a live power line, the crane operator and any nearby workers can be electrocuted.
  • Assembly and disassembly accidents: If assembly and / or disassembly is not performed according to the manufacturer’s specifications, it can result in catastrophic crane accidents. A MA work injury attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you have been injured in a crane accident.
  • Crane boom collapses: When the crane boom is extended too far, the crane’s ability to carry loads can be negatively impacted. This uneven distribution of weight can cause structural problems, which can result in the boom buckling or collapsing. This type of accident accounts for approximately eight percent of all crane accidents, and usually leads to serious injuries or death.
  • Tipping over: When the crane is overloaded beyond its capacity, it can tip over or collapse. Tip overs may also occur if the ground beneath the crane is uneven or unstable.

How to Prevent Crane Accidents

Crane accidents result in serious injuries and fatalities every year. If you are concerned that your employer is not following proper safety guidelines for crane operation and maintenance, you may contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and request a safety inspection. If you have been injured in a crane accident, it is in your best interest to consult with a skilled MA work injury lawyer immediately.

OSHA’s guidelines for preventing crane accidents include:

  • An inspector should check the crane for mechanical problems before each use.
  • Cranes should be inspected regularly to identify cracks, wiring problems, and worn or damaged parts.
  • A qualified person must perform any necessary repairs or modifications.
  • The crane should be placed on stable and flat ground and must be at least 10-feet from electrical cables.
  • The crane must not carry a load that exceeds its capacity.
  • Fences should be installed around the site to keep non-workers from getting too close to the crane.
  • A qualified “signal” person should assist the operator when maneuvering loads.
  • Workers should be equipped with fall protecting equipment.
  • The crane’s foundation and all structural supports should be designed by a professional engineer or the crane’s manufacturer.
  • Always use caution with wind. According to OSHA studies, wind is one of the top causes of crane accidents.

Continue reading

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has partnered with Barr & Barr Inc, a construction management company, to use the construction of Amherst College’s New Science Center as a model for workplace safety. Barr & Barr will create a health and safety plan, establishing benchmarks and goals for subcontractors to meet or exceed.

Plan Elements

The workplace health and safety plan, which will be administered by qualified safety and health representatives, will include the following elements:

  • Weekly project safety discussions with subcontractors.
  • Quarterly safety stand-downs.
  • Reviews of upcoming projects.
  • Analysis of workplace hazards.
  • Evaluation of the partnership on an annual basis.

Plan evaluations will be consistently reviewed and evaluated by OSHA to ensure that training is effective. At least one representative from OSHA will attend monthly review meetings. “Our common goal is to ensure a safe and healthful working environment at the construction site and for this project. Partnerships bring together recognized best workplace practices and create success,” said OSHA’s area director in Springfield, Mary Hoye. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve suffered a work-related injury or illness. If negligence played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation.

Strategic Partnership Program

The project, which is estimated to cost about $195 million, includes the construction of the 250,000 square foot, four-story science center. Signed in January 2017, the project is scheduled to conclude in August 2018. The Amherst project is one element of the larger Strategic Partnership Program, which OSHA established to recognize voluntary efforts of partners to eliminate serious hazards in the workplace.

“We are delighted to enter into this partnership with OSHA for the Amherst College New Science Center. It is our belief that this partnership agreement will enhance the entire team efforts to provide state-of-the-art safety programs, and will be a major benefit to the men and women building the project,” said executive vice president and chief operating officer of Barr & Barr, Stephen Killian. If you have been injured on the job, it is essential to consult with an experienced Boston work injury lawyer as soon as possible.

OSHA Worker Rights

Everyone is entitled to a safe workplace under federal law. Your employer must provide a safe workplace that is free of safety hazards and health risks. If you are concerned about the safety of your work environment, you have the right to report the issues without fear of retaliation. The following are worker rights, protected by federal law. If you feel that any of your rights are being violated, you can report your concerns to OSHA.

  • Workers should receive training in a language they understand.
  • Workers must be able to work on safe, properly maintained machines.
  • Workers should have access to essential safety gear.
  • Workers must be protected from toxic chemicals.
  • Workers can request an OSHA inspection at any time.
  • Workers can report illness or injury.
  • Workers may obtain a copy of their medical records.
  • Workers may obtain a copy of the workplace injury log.
  • Workers may obtain a copy of work-related injuries.
  • If tests are conducted to identify hazards in the workplace, workers may obtain a copy of the results.

Continue reading

Believe it or not, the healthcare industry has one of the highest rates of workplace accidents and injuries. Workers face biological hazards, exposure to chemicals and drugs, and radioactive material hazards on a regular basis. In fact, more healthcare workers are injured on the job than workers in any other industry. Read on for more information about the dangers healthcare workers face and how to dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death if you work in this industry.

What Makes the Healthcare Industry So Dangerous?

In addition to the usual work-related injuries, such as repetitive stress injuries and those caused by slip and fall accidents, healthcare workers have a disproportionate risk of many other hazards. Some of these potentially life-threatening hazards include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens and other biological hazards
  • Exposure to chemicals and drugs
  • Exposure to anesthetic gases
  • Respiratory hazards
  • Ergonomic hazards common to heavy lifting
  • Laser hazards
  • Laboratory hazards
  • Exposure to radioactive materials
  • Workplace violence

Some common, and very dangerous, chemicals that healthcare workers may be exposed to include formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, and paracetic acid. A MA work injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve following a healthcare-related work injury.

Healthcare and Social Assistance Worker Injury Statistics

In 2010, there were approximately 653,900 reported injury and illness cases in the healthcare and social assistance industry. The industry with the next highest number of injuries was manufacturing, with only 501,900. That’s a difference of 152,000 cases. So, what type of healthcare jobs have the highest risk? Nursing aides and orderlies have it the worst, with 249 out of every 10,000 workers suffering from musculoskeletal injuries. In contrast, the average for all workers (including non-healthcare) is 34 out of 10,000. The healthcare industry includes such a wide variety of jobs and tasks, from surgeons and nurses to mechanical maintenance and food service workers. And most of these jobs have a higher-than-average rate of injury. If you have been injured on the job, contact a Boston work injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Tips for Reducing Risk of Healthcare Injuries

Nearly half of all healthcare worker injuries are caused by overexertion or motions such as lifting and bending. Sprains and strains account for most of the reported injuries. By following the tips below, you can reduce your risk of serious injury on the job.

  • Identification and assessment of all hazards
  • Hazard prevention and control training
  • Overall safety training
  • Regular program evaluations
  • Minimal-lift policies
  • Lift-assistance equipment, which can include ceiling-mounted lifts and slide sheets that help during lateral transfers (bed to surgical table)

If you are concerned about the safety of your hospital work environment, talk to a supervisor. If the supervisor fails to respond to your concerns, you can always contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate the situation to determine if any changes must be made.                 Continue reading

Research indicates that about 70 construction workers die each year from trench cave-ins. Most commonly, a worker is injured or killed when a trench collapses and buries the worker under dirt or debris. Construction is one of the most dangerous professions in America, responsible for 899 worker deaths in 2014.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a trench as “a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and is no wider than 15 feet.” This means that some trenches can be much deeper than 15 feet, which poses a serious risk of fatal falls in addition to cave-ins.

Workers can also be harmed by hazardous conditions that come from being underground, including toxic environments, electrical accidents, gas line ruptures and water main breaks, the latter of which claimed the lives of two workers in Boston recently.

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