The Injury Machine? Workplace Accidents at Amazon Warehouses

Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world and the second-largest employer in the country. Unfortunately, it also leads the field in a less favorable category: warehouse injuries.

Amazon workers suffer serious injuries at over twice the rate of other warehouse employees, according to a report by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC). While Amazon employs one-third of all the warehouse workers in the U.S., it is responsible for nearly half of all warehouse injuries.

Electricity is a powerful force. In the wrong circumstances, anyone who comes in contact with it can be hurt or even killed. But for workers in certain industries, accidental electrocution is an occupational hazard faced every day. 

Around 2,200 electrical injuries annually force U.S. workers to take time off the job. What’s worse, an average of 175 workers die each year from injuries caused by electrocution. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, “contact with/exposure to electric current” is the seventh leading cause of workplace fatalities.  

Industries with High Rates of Electrocution Injury  

When you think about serious job-related injuries, what comes to mind? Transportation accidents? Trips and falls? Fires and explosions? While all of those do occur, one of the most common causes of workplace injury is much less dramatic: repetitive movement.   

Simply performing the same task over and over can result in damaged nerves, tendons, muscles, and joints. And the impact on the U.S. workforce is considerable. Injuries caused by repetitive motions cost employers an estimated $20 billion annually in workers’ compensation.  

Types of Repetitive Movement Injuries at Work 

Excavator Injuries

Between 1992 and 2000, the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) identified 346 deaths caused by excavators or backhoe loaders in the united states. The data found that the most common causes of injury were

  1. Being struck by the machine or parts of the machine while the machine was in motion; and

Hearing loss can be detrimental to a person’s quality of life. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), around 30 million people are exposed to chemicals dangerous to their ears at work and another 22 million are exposed to dangerous levels of noise. When workers are exposed over a long period of time this can result in permanent hearing damage and tinnitus. OSHA limits exposure to loud noises in the workplace to curb its negative effects. Workers should be exposed to noise levels above 85 decibels for no more than eight hours. They should also use protective devices in their ears to curb any hearing damage at this noise level. The cost of an injury you endure while trying to get your job done should not fall on you. If you experience hearing loss or tinnitus that you believe is related to hazardous noise levels at work, you may be entitled to compensation.

Who is at risk?

As humans, we are all vulnerable to hearing loss in loud environments. Some professions carry greater risks than others.

What is OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace safety on construction sites. Officials conduct inspections on worksites to enforce administration standards and publish reports detailing workplace safety. OSHA is a federal agency, but most states collaborate with it to create state-specific plans. These states create standards that apply to federal and state workers. States that choose not to create independent plans must comply with federal OSHA standards. These only apply to private workers. Massachusetts does not have a state plan with OSHA, therefore OSHA federal regulations apply to private workers.

What happens when OSHA gets involved in a construction accident?

When an accident occurs on a construction worksite, workers typically file a claim for workers compensation. This is a no-fault remedy where no negligence needs to be shown for a worker to recover. In other words, even if your employer used the utmost care, you can still recover from the workers compensation fund. OSHA representatives may come to a worksite following an accident to determine if the employer followed the standards of the administration. A violation of OSHA standards can be strong evidence of negligence on the part of your employer. A court is more likely to find the employer at fault for the workers injury, which will allow them to recover in a personal injury case in addition to workers compensation.

The depth of OSHA investigations typically depends on the seriousness of the accident. Any incident that results in any fatality or leads to the hospitalization of multiple workers is considered high priority. Employers are required to report serious accidents to OSHA within eight hours. These incidents will often prompt an immediate investigation. Inspectors will begin by researching any history of accidents on the worksite and review the employer’s operations. Representatives will set up a phone interviews with the employer and will then visit the site and document any hazards.

Workers may also file a written complaint with OSHA if they believe their employer is not following standards. OSHA staff will determine if the complaint is worth inspecting. They will evaluate the likelihood that there is a violation of their standards or another hazard. If OSHA has reason to know that the employer is fixing the hazard, they may not find it necessary to investigate. Inspections will often be limited to hazards listed in the complaint, but other readily observable violations may be recorded as well. Because of the way it prioritizes reports, it may take a while for OSHA to investigate. Continue reading

Tree workers, whether they work on or near trees, experience a heightened risk of injury. Serious hazards in tree work include falling from trees, tree limbs or entire trees falling on workers, and injury from heavy duty machinery. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) takes safety precautions in tree work very seriously.

If an individual not working in any official capacity is injured by a falling tree branch, they may be able to sue the property owner if the injury occurs on private property. Property owners generally have a duty to make their property reasonably safe for those who are lawfully there. Similarly, if the injury occurred on public property you may be able to sue the local government under a theory of negligence.

The rules are a bit different when it comes to workers injured in a tree accident. Workers injured in an accident involving a tree have the same legal recourse as workers in other jobs. The primary remedy is a workers compensation claim. The system is set up as a no-fault system, meaning you do not have to prove that any of the regulations were not followed to get compensation. All you have to prove is that during the course of your work you were injured. This means even if you are partially at fault, you can be compensated for your injuries. We highly recommend contacting our experienced team of workers compensation attorneys, as insurance companies make a habit of denying valid claims and withholding money from injured parties. We know your rights, and we are here to get you what you deserve. Workers can be compensated for hospital costs and costs associates with long term damage, loss of productivity, and time way from work.

OSHA Protocol:

  • Assess work site for fall and falling object hazards
  • Have an arborist assess likely risks
  • Determine if rigging is necessary
  • Determine if workers will need to use lift
  • Identify and provide the proper protective equipment
  • Only used approved climbing equipment
  • Ensure the training of all workers
  • Workers should remain 10 feet from power lines, or else have them de-energized
  • Take steps to protect workers from falling objects, including establishing a drop zone
  • Establish a communication system between workers
  • Provide traffic controls
  • Establish emergency procedures

Continue reading

Two common cleaning solutions – both safe when used individually – created a toxic cloud of fumes when unknowingly combined by an employee, which claimed the life of the general manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Burlington, Massachusetts and injured about a dozen others. In cases such as this, where you may have been wrongfully injured or a loved one wrongfully killed, attorneys from Altman & Altman LLP in Cambridge can help if you wish to pursue legal action.

How did this tragedy occur?

This sad incident, which occurred on Nov. 7, is a reminder that even otherwise relatively safe household chemicals can become deadly without proper knowledge or care in their use. The worker who cleaned the floors used a common solution called Super 8, which is a bleach-based cleaner that contains sodium hypochlorite. What the employee didn’t know is that another separate employee had spilled an acid-based cleaner called Scale Kleen on the same floor a little while earlier.

The two chemicals combined and created a substance (chlorine gas) that “turned green and started to bubble,” according to what Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson told the media following the incident. This substance produced a gas that caused the worker to suffer a burning sensation in their eyes and difficulty breathing.

It was then that the general manager, now identified as 32-year-old Ryan Baldera, attempted to use a floor squeegee to clean up the toxic mixture, but was quickly overtaken by the fumes and later died at a hospital. A GoFundMe page set up to help his family has since raised over $125,000 as the family has not wished to pursue any legal action against anyone for the incident at this time.

To put the science simply, mixing anything with a bleach-based product is a bad idea, and can often result in the creation of deadly chlorine gas – which is a gas so potently deadly that it was often utilized in World War 1 and later banned by the Geneva Protocol for being horrendously inhumane, but has still been utilized by modern dictators to purge large numbers of political and ethnic enemies.

Possible legal ramifications

The family of the killed general manager may still wish to pursue a wrongful death claim, although it would take some investigating to figure out who may be at fault for the death. It could be the fault of the employee who spilled the Scale Kleen, or the employee who then used the Super 8 cleaner, or it could be the fault of Buffalo Wild Wings for failing to adequately train employees in how these two readily available cleaners could potentially cause a fatal reaction if they were ever mixed.

The incident is still under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as law enforcement officials, so it may come to pass that other factors contributed to the young man’s death. What is known for sure is that the workers who were tasked with cleaning the floors on the day of the incident were either unaware of the reaction caused by mixing bleach and acid, or they failed to properly communicate with one another about the chemical spill that had occurred prior to the regular use of the Super 8 cleaner.

Managers of restaurants are supposed to go through adequate ServSafe training in Massachusetts, which includes a portion on handling cleaning chemicals. If this training were not offered or not adequately carried out, the family of the victim and those who were injured as a result may have grounds for legal action. Continue reading

On October 12, a portion of a new Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans collapsed, killing three construction workers and injuring dozens more, and wreaking chaos in the city that has left family members of the victims searching for answers. Multiple investigations are under way to determine who was at fault. Cases like this showcase how important it is to know who to call when a tragedy occurs, and that is why the attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP are available around the clock to help.

The construction of a new building can be exciting, especially a large building in the middle of a downtown area – which brings with it the promise of new commerce and attraction, and will ideally bring about more tourism and financial incentives into the community.

However, when construction contractors, architectural engineering firms or others involved in the building process cut corners or fail to perform their duties in a responsible manner that treats safety as a top priority, people can be seriously hurt or killed. Additionally, in cases like this one, businesses around the collapsed property are affected as well – as many were forced to shut down for days and even weeks as a safety precaution while the building was secured.

What this event has amounted to is pain and suffering born by the families of the victims who have perished, pain and suffering born by those injured in the incident and financial damage to businesses that have had to close due to the building collapse – and for these damages, the liable party or parties may rightfully be held accountable.

Lawsuits filed

This past week, loved ones of the deceased construction workers have already filed suit against developers responsible for overseeing the project on the grounds of pain and suffering due to their relatives’ wrongful deaths. Some of those filing suit had to suffer the added burden of their loved ones being listed as missing prior to being announced dead, and then having to witness them pull their deceased loved ones from the wreckage – adding more trauma to an already horrible situation.

As with all ongoing investigations, it is not known at the time what ultimately led to the collapse. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking into the incident to find out if there were any apparent worker safety issues that contributed to deaths or injuries and if the contractors or developers failed to adhere to certain safety protocols.

There is apparently video posted from construction workers on social media that showed portions of the build that looked weak and unstable, with one worker even commenting in Spanish on one of the videos about the shoddy design and of the new construction and how it was unsafe. Videos like that, along with testimony of construction workers who were firsthand witnesses to the building process will be crucial in assessing whether or not safety standards were ignored. Continue reading

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 69 percent of workers in the construction, transportation, and manufacturing industries say they suffer from on-the-job fatigue. The NSC recently released a report on this very serious problem, The Fatigue in Safety Critical Industries report, which delineates common causes and symptoms of fatigue, as well as the extensive associated costs.

It’s a well known fact that construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Among the most deadly construction accidents are falls from high places (ladders and scaffolding), being struck by objects, electrocutions, and becoming caught in materials and equipment. The risk of every one of these serious accidents is dramatically increased by worker fatigue. A MA work injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Although nearly two-thirds of all construction workers admitted to working while fatigued, the group said they were well aware of the risks involved with doing so. The NSC is urging employers in these industries to assess the level of fatigue their workers are experiencing, and to initiate policies that reduce worker injuries and deaths related to fatigue. One fatigued worker can put an entire team at risk, and the costs associated with fatigue-related accidents are shockingly high.

Common Causes and Symptoms of Worker Fatigue

The Fatigue in Safety Critical Industries report outlined common causes of worker fatigue and the symptoms to look for in employees and co-workers:

Causes

  • Lifestyle-related sleep deprivation
  • Sleep deprivation related to medical conditions
  • Working too many consecutive days
  • Shift work
  • Demands of a physical job
  • Workplace and life stressors
  • Monotonous, repetitive tasks

Symptoms

  • General tiredness, sleepiness, or lethargy
  • Loss of energy
  • Slow reaction time
  • Impaired decision making and judgment
  • “Foggy” brain
  • Loss of short term memory
  • Reduction in productivity
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Increased accidents and injuries

What Can Employers Do?

Obviously, employers are limited in their ability to improve the lifestyle and overall health of employees, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for employers to reduce workplace fatigue. For starters, they can pay closer attention to the amount of consecutive hours and days their employees are on the clock. Double shifts, back-to-back night and day shifts, and too many days in a row can easily cause fatigue. As such, employers should limit fatigue-inducing schedules as much as possible. Also, employers can ensure that all workers (but especially those working challenging shifts/hours) have access to regular breaks during which they can rest, grab a snack, and drink plenty of water.

Workers with boring, repetitive tasks can also be plagued by fatigue. In order to reduce this risk, employers should rotate job responsibilities so that no worker is stuck with the same boring, repetitive task for too long. And any time a job is physically demanding, workers should receive frequent breaks. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you recover damages or obtain workers’ compensation if you’ve been injured in a workplace accident.

Finally, a safe work environment is key to reducing accidents, fatigued or not. Employers should ensure that all workers have access to well-maintained personal protective gear, and that everyone receives adequate training and supervision. Continue reading

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