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MA Contractors Exposed Workers to Fatal Falls During Renovation Project

Four contractors were exposed to potentially fatal falls of up to 40 feet at an Easthampton jobsite, due to a lack of protective measures/equipment, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found.

According to reports, OSHA inspectors had visited the Easthampton renovation worksite in July 2014 after receiving complaints about fall hazards there. OSHA determined that four contractors working on that jobsite had violated safety measures and found several fall hazards including no fall protection for employees working on the roof; unguarded floor holes; insufficient anchorage for fall protection; and employees untrained to recognize fall hazards. All four contractors were cited and fined $110, 670 by OSHA; the projects general contractor, James J. Welch & Co, Inc., of Salem, MA, was fined $93,170 for one willful, one repeat and three serious violations of workplace safety standards.

“Falls are the number one killer in construction work. When fall protection is absent or deficient, as it was here, employees may be only moments away from a deadly or disabling plunge that could kill them or end their careers,” Mary Hoye, OSHA’s area director in Springfield, said in a statement.

She continued saying, “the sizable penalties reflect not only the danger of the fall hazards involved, but also the employer’s knowledge of the hazards and its deliberate failure to safeguard its employees.”

WORKPLACE FALLS

Nearly 20% of all occupational injuries occur in the construction industry with falls as the leading cause of injury and accounting for 35% of deaths, followed by struck by an object (10%), electrocutions (9%), and caught in-between injuries (2%). In 2012, seven workers died in construction-related falls in Massachusetts alone.

In response to the number of fatal falls in the workplace, OSHA launched a new fall prevention campaign to provide necessary resources, including training, for both employers and their workers.

Falls can be prevented and lives can be saved through three simple steps:

• Plan • Provide • Train
PLAN ahead to get the job done safely When working from heights, such as ladders, scaffolds, and roofs, employers must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely. Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task.

When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site. For example, in a roofing job, think about all of the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).

PROVIDE the right equipment Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear.

Different ladders and scaffolds are appropriate for different jobs. Always provide workers with the kind they need to get the job done safely. For roof work, there are many ways to prevent falls. If workers use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits, and regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it’s still in good condition and safe to use.

TRAIN everyone to use the equipment safely Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they’ll be using on the job.

(Information taken from OSHA. For more on this topic, click here.)

WORKERS COMPENSATION ATTORNEY

Employers are responsible for ensuring their employees work in a safe and hazard-free environment and have the proper training and tools to do their job safely as well as identify any dangerous threats to themselves and their co-workers.

When an individual is injured or killed while on the job, by law the employer must report the incident to OSHA for a complete investigation. Additionally in Massachusetts, when a worker suffers a workplace injury, he or she is supposed to be covered by Workers’ Compensation Benefits. These benefits ensure that a worker and his or her family is compensated for medical bills, disability payments and lost wages, as well as compensated for permanent injuries, disfigurement and scars.

Acquiring all of these benefits can sometimes be challenging, and it is advised that you speak to a licensed Workers’ Compensation Attorney to discuss your options after you have been involved in a workplace incident.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys has nearly five decades of experience handling workers’ compensation and work injury cases.

Upon review of your case, we will thoroughly investigate your work injury case and examine all avenues of recovery for you, including helping you to access the finest healthcare available in the Commonwealth. Additionally, we will determine whether other parties are liable for your injuries, such as the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment or a negligent contractor, and we can file claims or lawsuits against all responsible parties so that you receive the compensation you are entitled to. If you or a loved one was the victim of a workplace injury, do not hesitate to call one of the seasoned attorneys at Altman & Altman. Our attorneys are available around the clock to assist you and all initial consultations are completely free and confidential.

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