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Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

A total of 70 people died in work-related accidents in Massachusetts in 2016. That’s a 10 year high for on-the-job fatalities. In South Boston, a worker in a seafood warehouse died from exposure to ammonia fumes. A Braintree worker died from drowning while inspecting a municipal water tank. And a trench collapse killed two construction workers in the South End.

According to a recently released report by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), 62 of the 70 deaths occurred on the job. The remaining deaths were from occupational diseases, such as lung cancer, and all of those were firefighters. All but one of the workers who died were male. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured on the job.

Since 2012, where a total of 32 work-related fatalities occurred in MA, the number of annual deaths has been rising. According to Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the co-executive director for the National Council for Occupational safety and Health, the increase in fatalities is reflective of the increase in subcontractors and workers employed by staffing agencies. Goldstein-Gelb said that these employers are not as invested in overall worker safety.

Latino Workers are Most at Risk

In addition, Goldstein-Gelb believes the increase in work-related deaths is partly due to a decline in labor unions and an increase in undocumented workers, who rarely report unsafe working conditions out of fear of retaliation. The death rate among Latino workers is the highest of any ethnic group, with four out of every 100,000 workers dying on the job annually.

“When workers can’t speak up, then there is a greater risk that a hazard will not be identified and addressed and workers will suffer the consequences,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “The less people speak up, you will see an increase in deaths.”

And the problem isn’t just in Massachusetts. The number of people killed in work-related accidents hit a national seven-year high in 2015, at a total of 4,836 deaths. Deaths from occupational illnesses are estimated to cause a shocking 95,000 deaths in the United States every year. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

MA Company Facing Manslaughter Charges in Worker Deaths

The MassCOSH report listed 12 employers that put workers at an increased risk. Among them was Atlantic Drain Services, which is currently facing manslaughter charges for the deaths of Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, the two workers who drowned in the South End trench collapse last fall. According to the Suffolk district attorney, the company had multiple safety violations prior to this tragedy, and forged documents stating that workers had attended safety training in an attempt to mislead investigators. In response to those deaths, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance requiring the submission of safety records prior to receipt of a work permit. 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

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.

Criminal charges have been filed against the owner of Atlantic Drain Services, a Hyde Park drain cleaning company, following the October death of two workers. Kevin Otto, the company’s owner, is facing two counts of manslaughter, as well as charges that he misled investigators and concealed records after the trench collapse that killed Kevin Mattocks, 53, and Robert Higgins, 47.

The two Atlantic Services employees were killed when a water main broke, flooding the 15-foot-deep trench they were working in. According to the Boston Fire Department, the trench lacked necessary safety protections, including a trench box. A trench box is a steel or aluminum structure that protects workers in a trench, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), strictly requires trench boxes for trenches deeper than five feet.

According to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, “The evidence has established that the defendants were well aware of this shoring requirement, as well as the grave danger that workers would be exposed to without it, because they’d incurred two separate OSHA violations in the past 10 years for failing to follow it.”

If you are injured on-the-job, workers’ compensation usually steps in to cover damages, from medical expenses to a portion of lost wages. Workers’ comp is even available if the accident was your fault. But what if the accident was a result of another’s negligence? If you fall off scaffolding because you weren’t paying attention, that’s not negligence. But if you fall off scaffolding because no harness was provided, negligence might be a factor. If you have been injured in in a construction-related accident, contact a MA work injury lawyer today.

What’s a Third-Party Lawsuit?

Here’s the thing about workers’ comp – it prohibits you from suing your employer. But what if another party was responsible for your injuries. If a third-party vendor or contractor played a role in your injuries, you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit in addition to your workers’ comp claim. If you are injured at work, you can file for workers’ comp which will provide benefits to you while protecting your employer from being sued. If the accident occurred because the brand new crane you were working on malfunctioned, you may be able to sue the crane manufacturer for defective design or faulty equipment. This is known as a third-party lawsuit. Site owners, general and sub-contractors, and equipment manufacturers are the most common types of third-party players in the construction industry.

The construction site owner and contractors may also be liable for injuries, depending on the circumstances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that general contractors and sub-contractors provide a safe working environment at all times. Further, it is their responsibility to ensure that work safety regulations are followed. They may do this through observation and trainings, adherence to codes, and by providing safe, well-maintained equipment. If general and sub-contractors fail to meet these requirements, they may be liable for damages if an accident occurs. Equipment manufacturers can also be liable if a piece of equipment is found to be defective, or if proper instructions for safe operation are not provided. If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today.

Photograph, Document, Record

Documentation is key if you believe that negligence played a role in your work injury. It is crucial to keep medical records, collect witness statements, and take photographs of any evidence or relevant information. Jot down the location of the accident, and any pertinent details about the construction site. If a third party was negligent, you may be eligible for additional compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, transportation costs, and more. Keep in mind, however, that third-party lawsuits are complex matters. The help of a skilled injury lawyer will greatly improve your chances of success.

Wrongful Death

If a loved one suffered fatal injuries in a construction-related accident, the family may be able to file a wrongful death claim if the accident was due to another’s negligence. In some cases, multiple lawsuits, including wrongful death, product liability, and personal injury, may be filed. Continue reading

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared the death of a worker at a Bellingham Massachusetts used auto parts business as preventable, and the result of a lack of proper safety training.

The employee was inflating a tire while working at John’s Used Autos and Parts LLC when he was struck in the head by a “chain come-a-long” device that is used to mount rim wheels onto tires. The incident occurred on Oct. 31, 2016 and the employee perished from his injuries on Nov. 11.

An investigation into the workplace fatality was launched by OSHA’s Braintree office and found that the employer did not:

A contract packaging company based out of Dudley, MA is facing hefty fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after their negligence and subsequent actions seriously endangered one of their temporary workers in May of 2016.

On May 26, 2016, an improperly-trained temporary worker for Shield Packaging Co. Inc., which specializes in filling, packaging and shipping products stored in pressurized aerosol cans, was cleaning the filling nozzles along a production line when the equipment unexpectedly turned on, violently piercing his finger with the sharp filling nozzle and “inflating” his arm with pressurized, propellant gas.

The incident alone was gruesome enough, but Shield Packaging truly blundered in their reaction to the horrible accident. The worker’s employers did not even call 911 in the immediate aftermath. The injured employee was the one to initiate a 911 call. After the call was made, the employee was taken in a private vehicle to the hospital where they underwent emergency treatment and was hospitalized.

Working in the elements has special risks during every season, but Massachusetts winters can be especially challenging. If you work outside for at least part of the day, it’s crucial to utilize safe practices at all times. The information below addresses some of the most common winter weather-related work injuries and how to avoid them. If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, it’s important that you know what benefits that are available to you immediately and in the long term.

Slip and Fall Accidents

When ice, snow, and freezing rain are a daily occurrence, it’s especially important to take precautions in the workplace. In addition to slippery walkways and parking lots outside, workers can track snow and slush into buildings, resulting in indoor puddles and the potential for slip and fall accidents. Follow the steps below to reduce the risk of weather-related falls at work:

  • Put salt on icy walkways and parking lots and keep them as clear of snow as possible.
  • Inside each doorway, place a non-skid mat to absorb excess snow and slush.
  • When any area becomes slippery – whether inside due to tracked snow or a spill, or outside due to ice or slush – place cones around the hazardous area.

Back Injuries

Whether they are due to excessive shoveling, lifting heavy construction equipment, or slipping on an icy or wet surface,  back injuries are common among workers who are forced to brave the winter elements. The most common winter weather-related back injuries include sprains and strains, fractures, overexertion injuries, and lacerations. To reduce the risk of back injuries at work, follow the tips below:

  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling or lifting heavy objects on the job.
  •  Stretch for several minutes to warm up your muscles.
  • Employers should provide shovels specially designed to reduce back strain.

Cold Weather-Related Injuries

Being outside in below freezing temperatures for extended periods of time can result in serious – even fatal – complications. Hypothermia, frostbite, and cold stress can wreak havoc on the healthiest, toughest workers. Dampness and wind can amplify the dangerous effects of cold weather, and it doesn’t even have to be freezing outside; frostbite and hypothermia can sneak up on you. To prevent dangerous cold weather-related conditions:

  • All workers should be trained on how to protect themselves from temperature-related injuries.
  • When temperatures are low, workers should take frequent breaks in a warm environment to get their internal temperature back to normal.
  • Workers should drink warm drinks throughout the day, such as hot tea, coffee, or hot apple cider.

Work injuries are an unfortunate reality, but we can take steps to dramatically reduce our risk of serious injuries and death on the job. Although all jobs carry some risk, certain occupations – such as construction and roofing, farming and logging, corrections and law enforcement – carry a disproportionately higher risk. In 2015, there were nearly three million reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  If you have been injured at work, contact a MA workers’ compensation lawyer today. Continue reading

Every year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a report of the 10 most commonly cited violations for that year. The agency obtains this data from the tens of thousands of workplace inspections it conducts annually. Interestingly, the list remains fairly constant from year to year. Read on for more information about OSHA’s top ten safety and health violations and how you can avoid becoming a statistic in a serious, or fatal, workplace accident.

More than 4,500 workers are killed in a work-related accident annually, and about three million are injured. These numbers are staggering, especially considering that employers are responsible, by law, to provide and maintain safe work environments. The top 10 violations below contribute to the majority of these injuries and fatalities. If you have been injured on the job, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today.

  • Fall protection: Falls are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States, and most of these occur in the construction industry. Without proper protection, such as harnesses and anchors, fall-related deaths increase significantly.
  • Hazard communication: When hazardous chemicals are present, workers have a need and a right to know. Hazard communication refers to the process of identifying hazardous substances, notifying workers of the presence of hazardous substances, and informing workers of protective measures necessary to avoid injury or death when working with, or near, said hazardous substances.
  • Scaffolds: Scaffold violations are often a contributing factor in fatal falls. Considering that about 65 percent of the construction industry works on scaffolds, preventing scaffold violations would dramatically reduce annual injuries and deaths in this industry.
  • Respiratory protection: Exposure to asbestos, chemicals, and other toxic substances can result in long term health problems. Sudden chemical spills can even cause immediate death. Proper respiratory protection is essential to prevent long-term damage and sudden death in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, lack of adequate respiratory protection is one of the most commonly cited OSHA violations.
  • Lockout / tagout: These violations often result in gruesome injuries and deaths from machines that start up suddenly. Lockout / tagout refers to the process of turning machines off and ensuring they can’t be turned back on while being worked on.
  • Powered industrial trucks: Forklifts and powered industrial trucks are responsible for significant injuries and deaths every year. In nearly all fatal cases involving one of these machines, workers were not properly trained on safe operation, or other OSHA violations were a factor.
  • Ladders: Ladder violations often contribute to fall injuries and deaths.
  • Machine guarding: Similar to lockout / tagout, machine guarding refers to the installation of machine guards to protect arms, hands, legs, and feet from injury, amputation, or worse. Failure to properly guard machines is a common OSHA violation.
  • Electrical wiring: It isn’t difficult to understand why electrical violations can spell disaster. Electrocution can be immediately deadly. Therefore, proper precautions and safety training are essential for jobs involving electrical work.
  • Electrical, general: Ditto, above.

Most of the above violations occur in the construction industry. Unfortunately construction is an inherently dangerous field. However, risks and hazards can be dramatically reduced, along with your risk of serious injury and death, when OSHA regulations and standards are followed. If you notice an on-the-job hazard, report it to your supervisor immediately. If your supervisor doesn’t promptly respond to your concerns, you can always contact OSHA. If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today. Continue reading

Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is calling for more stringent regulations regarding construction companies getting bids to perform work in the Massachusetts metropolitan center in the wake of two construction workers being killed while conducting routine work in a trench in October.  The two workers were killed after a water main break flooded the trench with water and debris and were unable to escape. An initial investigation revealed that the trench was not safeguarded against potentially catastrophic cave-ins or collapses because the contractor did not implement the use of a “trench wall,” which braces against both sides of the trench during work.

Subsequent investigations by WGBH showed that the construction contractor, Atlantic Drain Services (based out of Roslindale, MA), had been cited 13 times by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the past five years, including a citation for placing its workers underground without the proper safety and rescue precautions in place.

The tragic incident has led to outrage over the fact that Atlantic Drain Services was given the bid for construction despite their checkered past with safety violations, which are a part of the public record and available to anybody who requests the data. It is indeed alarming that city officials would not check out such a history before awarding a construction bid for potentially dangerous work.  The incident is still being investigated by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and OSHA itself, and it is likely that serious fines will be levies onto Atlantic Drain Services for their negligent and ultimately deadly failings to provide a safe work environment for their employees.

Construction work requires exceedingly careful precautions

Construction work is consistently amongst the most dangerous work for American employees, causing 899 deaths in 2014. About 70 of those deaths happened as a direct result of trench work, which often puts workers in toxic, cramped, and potentially deadly environments where cave-ins, electrocution, and respiratory arrest is a common threat to safety.  OSHA has a lengthy list of regulations regarding trench work. Regulations include ensuring that the trench is properly protected against cave-ins by using various methods, that a competent supervisor watches all activity to ensure proper protocols are being used, and that there are rescue measures at the ready to save any workers who are suddenly put in danger.

In the case of the two Boston workers who perished, their deaths are on the hands of multiple parties, including the Boston officials who allowed Atlantic Drain Services to obtain the construction bid and the decision-making entities of the construction company who allowed the work to move forward despite proper safety precautions to not be in place.

Hold negligent construction firms accountable

New and serious regulations are absolutely an essential part to prevent future tragedies such as the one that occurred in October. The other part is to hold any firms who don’t take safety measures seriously enough accountable for their negligence.  The construction contractor is completely liable for any legal suits that come their way as the result of the deaths of two of their workers. A worker death does not just affect the deceased, but also any and all members of their families who depend on their income. The emotional trauma is bad enough without having to worry about how the money that they used to make will be replaced, if it can be at all. Continue reading

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