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Articles Posted in Work Injury

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.

When an employee misses six or more days of work due to an on-the-job injury, it is considered a “serious” workplace injury. According to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Insurance Workplace Safety Index, these serious injuries and accidents cost U.S. employers about $59.9 billion in 2014. The study, which has been conducted for each of the past 17 years, seeks to help employers concentrate on the most important areas of workplace safety.

What Are the Top 10 Leading Causes of Serious Workplace Injuries in Massachusetts and Nationwide?

Although any work-related accident can result in serious injuries, the following 10 causes accounted for more than 83 percent of the total $59.9 billion spent nationwide in 2014. And the top three causes collectively represent nearly half of that total.

  1. Overexertion
  2. Same level falls
  3. Falls to a lower level
  4. Struck by an object
  5. Other types of overexertion or bodily reaction
  6. Roadway accidents involving motor vehicles
  7. Slip or trip accidents without a fall
  8. Being caught in or compressed by an object or objects
  9. Struck against an object
  10. Repetitive motions related to micro-tasks

“Each year, we rank the top 10 causes of the most serious, nonfatal workplace injuries by their direct costs to help companies better protect employees and the bottom-line,” reports Liberty Mutual spokesperson Debbie Michel. “Workplace injuries impact both employees and employers. Injured employees face potential physical, emotional and financial harm. Employers face the direct costs of workplace injuries – medical care related to the accident and some portion of an injured employee’s pay – and the indirect costs, including hiring temporary employees, lost productivity, and quality disruptions.”

When compared to the 2016 report, the top 10 causes of serious workplace accidents remained the same. However, the share of those 10 causes in the cost of total workplace accidents grew from 82.5 percent in 2016 to 83.4 percent in 2017. Roadway accidents and same level falls continued the upward trend while overexertion saw a substantial decrease. These results help companies like Liberty Mutual advise employers of how to effectively reduce serious workplace accidents. If you’ve been injured in a serious workplace accident, it’s crucial to consult with a skilled MA serious workplace injury lawyer. Your employer will prioritize his or her best interests. You should do the same.

Which Occupations Have Highest Risk of Serious Workplace Injuries?

Although certain occupations have a greater risk of serious workplace injuries, you can be injured while performing any type of job duty, from secretarial work to fighting fires. The occupations below have some of the highest rate of workers’ comp claims for serious workplace injuries:

  • Laborers
  • Truck drivers
  • Nurses and nursing aides
  • Construction workers
  • Carpenters

If you have suffered any of the above injuries, or have experienced another type of workplace injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or chemical burns, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced Boston work injury lawyer right away. The right representation can ensure that you obtain the compensation you deserve in a timely manner. Continue reading

A 51-year-old Stoughton worker was tragically killed on Jan. 24 after an incident at his place of work in Freetown. Alphonse Ferent was working at a distribution center for Stop & Shop when he fell between a loading dock and a tractor trailer that was pulling away from the loading dock.

As the truck pulled away, a forklift that was unloading product from inside the tractor trailer fell out of the back of the truck and onto Ferent, killing him, as reported by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH).

Ferent’s death marks the 21st worker death that resulted from heavy objects falling and crushing the victim since 2007. Nationally, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that there are about 85 fatal accidents involving forklifts every year, and approximately 11 percent of the 855,900 forklifts used across the United States will be involved in some type of work accident.

“Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of Alphonse,” said MassCOSH Interim Executive Director Al Vega. “Here at MassCOSH, we have seen far too many lives lost at loading docks. Until employers recognize the inherent dangers that come with moving goods at distribution centers and take to heart their responsibility to keep their workers safe no matter what, we will continue to senselessly lose men and women on the job.”

Employers are responsible for worker safety

This tragic accident involved many aspects that could have been avoided. Any situation involving a forklift on a moving apparatus such as a tractor trailer should be properly supervised and only performed by trained employees utilizing proper safety protocols. In this case, an investigation will be launched to ascertain why the truck began moving with the forklift still performing work in its cargo-holding area.

OSHA requires that all workplace deaths must be immediately reported and investigated to find out what went wrong and what could be done to prevent any future tragedies. The managers at the distribution center, and Stop & Shop, very well may face citations and penalties for any failures found that resulted in the compromising of their employees’ safety.

Although this event could have been the result of a tragic, ill-timed accident, it nonetheless puts a spotlight on the dire importance of proper safety protocols in areas where heavy machinery are used in close conjunction to employees. The family of the worker who lost his life will never be able to regain what they have lost, but they may be able to file a suit for wrongful death if an investigation shows that his death was preventable. Continue reading

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found a Cincinnati-based food company to be guilty of multiple safety violations that led to a worker having one of his arms amputated below the elbow after an avoidable accident occurred at their factory.

Klosterman Baking Co. now faces close to $150,000 in citations due to their negligence, which involved not enforcing proper safety precautions in the cleaning and maintenance of their machinery. The 28-year-old employee eventually lost his arm after it was injured while cleaning a machine and a conveyor belt with a compressed air wand.

Even worse, the follow-up OSHA investigation revealed that Klosterman Baking Co. continued to expose its employees to the same risks that wound up severely injuring their employee. Even after somebody was seriously injured, they continued to operate without the proper safety precautions and made no attempts to protect other employees from the same potential harm.

Workers’ compensation provides wage replacement and may cover medical expenses if you are injured in a work-related accident in Massachusetts. This is true even if the accident was your fault. These benefits are supposed to be easy to obtain, but that is rarely the case. In theory, you can apply for workers’ comp benefits without an attorney, but the process can be extremely complex and application errors can result in delayed or reduced benefits, or both. Below are five reasons why you should hire an experienced workers’ comp lawyer if you’ve been injured on the job.

Top Reasons to Hire a Lawyer Following a Work Injury

Free Consultation

Most lawyers will consult for free. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our initial consultation is free, and entirely confidential. Whether you decide to “go it alone” or retain legal counsel, a complimentary consultation can give you the guidance and direction you need to move forward with confidence. If you have been injured on the job, contact a MA workers’ compensation lawyer today.

Faster Approval Means Faster Benefits

If your initial claim is denied, you can appeal it, but the appeals process can delay benefits for weeks or months. Why not get it right the first time? By hiring a skilled workers’ comp attorney, your chances of a successful application increase dramatically. This is likely your first time applying for benefits. Experienced attorneys have filled out countless workers’ comp forms. They know what to do, and what not to do. In addition to improved accuracy, a knowledgeable attorney will also remove the burden of meeting deadlines and responding to requests. You are already under a lot of stress, why add to it with paperwork and claim management?

Forms, Forms, Forms

Do you love filling out tax forms? If you do, then ignore these next few sentences. If, like most Americans, you despise filling out tax forms, you probably won’t like this process much more. The language used on workers’ comp forms, lovingly created by government agencies, is rarely clear and to the point. What’s worse – even minor application errors can result in delayed or reduced benefits. In some cases, workers never receive any benefits at all. Lost wages can be financially disastrous, and many families don’t have the luxury of waiting weeks or months for benefits to kick in. Trying to handle the claims process alone can cost you much more in the long run. If you have suffered a work injury, contact a MA workers’ compensation lawyer today.

Claims Experience

When it comes to experience with claims, a skilled workers’ comp lawyer has it. He or she will be able to answer questions with relative ease. No time will be wasted while you try to figure out what information is needed and how to respond to questions. Even more important, if your claim is denied, or any problems arise during the process, you will have an experienced lawyer by your side to quickly, effectively determine the best possible solution. 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

Another Massachusetts construction worker has passed away following an accident during routine trench work in Duxbury, MA when a power saw kicked back and made lethal contact with his throat.  The Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office does not suspect foul play, and the incident is under investigation now by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to determine what caused the saw to become “bound” and subsequently injure the worker.

The tragic accident occurred during routine trench work on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Duxbury when workers were excavating an underground water line. At least one other worker was involved in the activity but was not harmed.

Trench work is dangerous work

This event, and an incident in October that claimed the lives of two workers in Boston, puts an unfortunate emphasis on how dangerous construction work – and work in trenches, specifically – truly is. In 2014, 899 construction workers died while working on the job, and about 70 construction workers die each year from accidents involving trenches.  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 the most common form of trench work deaths – cave-ins.

There are many health regulations put in place by OSHA and state agencies that regulate trench work, including always securing each side of the wall, providing fall protection, designing protective measures such as properly sloping at least one wall of the trench in the event workers have to get out quickly.  Additionally, foremen and workers on site must always be aware of changing conditions in the trench and in the surrounding soil. They must also be aware of any seismic activity, even from something as simple as traffic passing nearby.

Of course, in accidents such as this most recent and unfortunate one in Duxbury, no amount of cave-in prevention can prevent a tragic death involving a power saw. It is cases like these that must prompt construction companies to learn how to better protect their workers from each of the unique dangers that exist on a job site. Trenches are tight quarters to work in, so there should always be additional precautions when working with dangerous power tools. Continue reading

The workplace is the backbone of American society and where millions of Americans earn their livings. Unfortunately, many careers and employers subject their workers to dangerous environments, tools of trade and procedures in order to get work done.  It can be as simple as a fall from a platform during construction, or something more complex like developing tinnitus after frequenting a loud work environment with inadequate or deficient ear protection. Regardless of the type of injury or severity, as a worker, you have rights.

Workers’ compensation is right to continue earning money despite being unable to perform your work duties. Employees and their loved ones have the right to workman’s compensation for injuries sustained while on the job that cause death, partial or total disability, and disfigurement or loss of function (such as permanent scars). In Massachusetts, workers are entitled to 60% of their weekly wage in disability payments.

Expectation of safety

In addition to providing proper compensation for workers injured while on the job, employers – big or small – are required to upkeep a safe working environment and to implement adequate safety protocols when performing dangerous work is unavoidable.  Overseen and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor, these strictly-enforced regulations help ensure that employers keep the safety of their employees paramount, and do everything possible to prevent avoidable deaths on the job site.

A recent example of negligence leading to a serious work injury happened on Oct. 31 in Wareham. An employee for HiWay Safety Systems was trapped between a docking bay and the bumper of a tractor trailer truck, causing severe head trauma and his eventual death. The incident has since been labeled as a tragic, avoidable death by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH).  The victim left behind a wife and two sons, who will have to deal with the emotional turmoil and financial distress of losing a husband, a father, and a breadwinner. The tragic event is now under investigation by OSHA, state, and local authorities.

It should be known that any worker asked to perform a duty that can be reasonably, in good faith, seen as overly hazardous maintains the right to refuse that work. In such a situation, employees should alert their employers of their concern and either ask for different work or ask that the hazards be adequately corrected. If the hazard is not corrected or the employer threatens retaliatory action for not performing the work, the employer should contact OSHA immediately. The worker would also have the right to legal representation. Continue reading

Considering the possibility of perishing inside the subzero conditions of a walk-in freezer may be the last thing anybody ever considers, until they’re inside one, alone, and the safety latch that has always worked in the past is not working.  While certainly not a common occurrence, people do die from walk-in freezer accidents. Usually, they are alone and unable to summon help when a safety mechanism fails, trapping them inside the unforgiving cold with no way of getting anybody’s attention and nobody coming to help them until the place of business opens the following morning.

The conditions inside a walk-in freezer are obviously dangerous, but for more reasons than just the cold. Some freezer units utilize dry ice, which gives off carbon dioxide. If the exposure lasts long enough, breathing in too much carbon dioxide can be fatal. It is always possible, though, for a slow and torturous freezing death to occur.

How can this happen in today’s safety-conscious society?

The most recent walk-in freezer incident occurred in March of 2016, when a 61-year-old employee of a hotel in Atlanta found herself trapped and unable to get anyone’s attention. She was found frozen solid the next morning.  Since this tragedy is such an inconsistent and rare occurrence, there is no serious dialogue about how to better prevent these events. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does mention two standards on the subject:

  • Provide a panic bar or other means of exit inside the freezer in the event that an employee is inadvertently trapped.
  • Always have an accessible exit from a walk-in freezer besides the main door.

Despite these common sense measures, accidents and malfunctions happen. Safety latches can fail and notification systems such as bells, electronic alarms and closed-circuit telephones can go unheard. More comprehensive safety systems might cost a lot of money, so smaller businesses won’t shell out the money to protect against such an unlikely event.

The best way to protect yourself, if you are an employee that must spend time in a walk-in freezer, is to always let somebody know when you’re going to be inside of one, and have them check up on you with a text message or phone call when you’re supposed to be clocked out of work. Alternatively, if cell service isn’t an issue, always keep your phone on you when going into a freezer, so you may call somebody for help. Continue reading

Some of the most important jobs that bolster our economy and continue our growth here in Massachusetts and across the country also happen to be the most dangerous. Construction workers, line workers, industrial engineers, miners, farmers, and a thousand different variants of manual laborers all put their bodies into harm’s way in order to perform their important duties and make money for them and their loved ones.  Getting injured while on the job is an unavoidable part of working in a dangerous field. Despite being careful, and despite long lists of safety regulations that are required for employers to follow, accidents will happen. When they do, having mandatory workers’ compensation programs is what separates the United States from less-developed nations, where injured workers may simply be on their own financially.

Employers are required to offer workers’ compensation, and for good reason. If someone is unable to work and collect a paycheck due to an injury sustained at work, that place of employment should take responsibility and step up to help their employee. It’s not just a sign of good faith and morals, it’s the law.

Mucking the gears of workers’ compensation is wrong

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