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.

Articles Posted in Work Injury

Massachusetts scaffolding accidents are extremely common. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 65 percent of construction workers use scaffolds regularly. The agency estimates that 50 workers die and 4,500 are injured annually in the U.S. due to scaffolding accidents. To combat this problem, OSHA releases workplace-accident information and safety standards every year. By maintaining standards that are at least as effective as OSHA’s, a workplace can dramatically reduce its risk of work-related accidents. Unfortunately, in an effort to save money and cut corners, these regulations are sometimes overlooked by employers and workers alike.

How to Prevent Scaffolding Accidents

Most scaffolding accidents are the result of user error, faulty equipment, improper construction of the scaffolding itself, or negligent maintenance. Workers can be seriously injured or killed when they are struck by a falling object, lose their footing and fall from the scaffolding, or when supports give way. The following tips can help you prevent injury or death in a scaffolding accident.

  • Inspect scaffolding prior to use. A daily visual inspection can help workers to more effectively detect damage, defects, or worn parts that should be replaced.
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines, such as specifications for set up and break down, and information about load capacities. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a scaffolding accident.
  • Train workers regularly. Anyone working on or around scaffolding should receive proper training. In addition to general safety information, workers should be trained about that particular scaffold’s design, how to set it up and tear it down, and how to safely climb on and off the scaffolding.
  • Proper gear should be worn at all times. Safety gear, including hard hats, non-slip footwear, and harnesses should be well maintained and readily available for workers. Scaffolding should also be equipped with appropriate safety equipment, including toeboards, guardrails, and
  • Ensure that scaffolding is erected on stable ground. Never use unstable objects -such as bricks or concrete blocks – to support scaffolds.
  • Never exceed your scaffolding’s load capacity.
  • Keep scaffolding a safe distance – at least 10 feet – from power lines. A MA work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a scaffolding accident.
  • Clear debris and spills from scaffolding immediately. Falling debris can be deadly, and spilled liquids and other substances can result in slipping.

If you notice that any of the above guidelines aren’t being followed at your work site, speak to a supervisor immediately. If your supervisor doesn’t resolve the issue, you can always report the problem to OSHA. An agency representative will visit your work site to conduct a safety investigation. If violations are discovered, the company will need to immediately remedy the issue, and may be cited, fined, or both. Continue reading

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition affecting the hand, fingers, and wrist. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the hand to the arm, becomes compressed where the hand and wrist meet. The condition is given its name due to the protective sheath covering the median nerve – the carpal tunnel. A person suffering from CTS may experience burning, tingling, numbness, and extreme pain in the palm of the hand.

Although CTS is often caused by work-related repetitive motions such as typing, proving that you have CTS – for the purpose of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits – is not always an easy task. If you are suffering from symptoms of CTS, the first step is to visit your doctor for an exam. CTS rarely gets better on its own. In fact, in most cases, symptoms will progress if left untreated. In addition to getting treatment for your CTS, a visit to the doctor will also establish a medical record of your condition, which can be immensely beneficial if you decide to file a workers’ comp claim. A Boston workers’ comp attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are suffering from a work-related injury.

The Problem with Repetitive Stress Injuries

CTS injuries are often more difficult to prove than other work-related injuries. For starters, all repetitive motion injuries occur over time, rather than due to an isolated accident. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Bob falls from scaffolding and is knocked unconscious, prompting his co-workers to call an ambulance. At the hospital, doctors discover that Bob has a broken leg. As a result, Bob is unable to work for two months, incurring thousands of dollars in medical bills.
  • John works on an assembly line. After two years of assembling the same car parts over and over again, day in and day out, he develops extreme pain in his right hand. The debilitating pain makes it impossible for John to perform his job. John reports the pain to his supervisor who tells him to go to Rite-Aid and get a wrist brace if it’s bothering him.

Which of the above scenarios is more likely to end with a successful workers’ comp claim? The reality is, both Bob and John should be eligible for workers’ comp benefits. But Bob’s scaffolding accident and casted leg are easier to evaluate than John’s sudden complaint of pain in his hand. His employer might also argue that the wrist pain – even with an official carpal tunnel diagnosis – is a pre-existing condition. In either case, the help of a skilled MA workers’ comp attorney will help ensure that you get the benefits you deserve in a timely manner.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Facts and Statistics

If you are suffering from CTS, you are not alone. It is the most common nerve disorder of the upper extremities.

  • Approximately five percent of the working population suffers from CTS.
  • CTS surgery is the most commonly-performed surgery of the hand and wrist, with more than 460,000 surgeries annually in the US.
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, almost two-thirds of work-related injuries to the upper body are due to repetitive trauma.
  • Women have twice the risk of developing CTS as men.

Continue reading

Cranes are used on construction sites to move heavy objects. If not operated safely, they can be extremely dangerous. Crane accidents are a leading cause of serious injury and death in the construction industry. In fact, the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that there were 818 crane-related fatalities in the 10 year period between 1997 and 2006. The reasons for these accidents vary widely, from mechanical failures to user error. Fortunately, most crane accidents are easily preventable. The following information looks at common causes of crane accidents and how to prevent them.

How to Prevent Crane Accidents

Because of their sheer size, weight and height, cranes can be deadly when misused or poorly maintained. Crane collapses, which may occur when weight limits are ignored or the crane is placed on an unstable surface, often result in death. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the following conditions are crucial to the prevention of crane accidents:

  • All crane operators and related workers must receive proper training.
  • Crane equipment should be regularly maintained and inspected for the detection of equipment failures or defects.
  • Cranes and loads must be properly rigged.
  • Manufacturer-specified weight limits must be strictly observed.
  • Crane assembly and disassembly must be closely supervised.
  • Anyone working on or around a crane must be able to openly and effectively communicate with others working on or around the crane.
  • Cranes must be placed on stable ground.
  • Cranes must be a safe distance from power lines.

Electrocution

According to OSHA, nearly half of all overhead crane accidents occur when the crane makes contact with a power source. These accidents often result in the electrocution of anyone touching the crane when it comes into contact with a high-voltage power line. But even workers in close proximity to the crane can be seriously injured. In fact, nearly 200 workers die this way every year. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Overloading

About 80 percent of all crane collapses can be attributed to overloading. When the crane’s operational capacity is exceeded, structural stress can result in structural failures and collapse. Swinging or suddenly dropping the load can also lead to collapse. Overloading is most often a direct result of human error, and can be prevented through proper training and supervision. Relying on instinct to determine whether a load is too heavy can lead to disaster. The use of load-measuring technologies can significantly reduce the risk of this potentially-deadly hazard. Continue reading

When people think of chlorine, the first thing that comes to mind is usually swimming pools. But chlorine is actually an extremely toxic – potentially deadly – substance. In fact, the gas produced by chlorine is so deadly that it was used during WWI as a chemical weapon. Although most chlorine-related injuries are minor burns or skin irritations, more serious injuries occur every year. Chlorine gas can cause fatal explosions, and even short-term exposure can result in life-threatening respiratory complications.

A fatal chlorine accident occurred in 2015, when an unmarked drum of chlorine gas was crushed. Eight Pacific Steel and Recycling employees were injured at the Spokane, Washington facility. One of those workers died. In 2017, one of the injured employees filed a lawsuit. Felix Shuck suffered a fifty percent reduction in lung capacity, as well as multiple other injuries that prevented him from continuing to work. However, Shuck is suing the company that delivered the chlorine gas, not his employer. Ibex Construction is being sued for negligence for allegedly hiring a subcontractor whose failure to label the drum resulted in the fatal accident.

But Pacific Steel and Recycling didn’t get away unscathed; a government agency fined the company for failure to follow certain procedures. For example, they failed to ensure that the gas drum was empty prior to accepting it, and they stripped the drum of its pressure gauges, which may have contributed to the accident. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving toxic substances or fumes.

How to Avoid Injuries Related to Toxic Substances

If you must work around toxic substances, the following practices can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death.

 

  • Substitute an existing substance, process, or equipment with a less hazardous alternative.
  • Isolate the hazard with an appropriate barrier or limiter, such as machine guards, remote-controlled equipment, and acoustical containment.
  • Ventilate the work environment through one of two methods – dilution of the substance by mixing with uncontaminated air, or the capture and removal of the substance at the source.
  • Change operating practices to reduce exposure to chemical hazards. This can be done by adjusting work schedules, limiting access to high-risk areas, and establishing preventive maintenance programs.
  • Use personal protection equipment, such as ventilators, masks, and protective clothing.

 

Who is Liable for Injuries Caused by Workplace Exposure to Toxic Substances?

Work-related injuries are generally covered by workers’ compensation, but individuals may recover additional damages if negligence contributed to the accident, as in the case above. Chlorine gas is one type of toxic substance, but there are many others, including asbestos. Asbestos is one of the deadliest toxic substances in the history of workplace toxic substances. According to the World Heath Organization more than 100,000 people die annually due to asbestos-related lung cancer, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. In many cases, multiple parties may be liable for injuries caused by workplace exposure to toxic substances, including contractors (as in the case above), the original manufacturer, and the employer. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Work injuries rise during summer months for various reasons; long hours outside in the elements, dehydration, and a spike in “riskier” jobs such as road construction, to name a few. The good news is, the majority of these injuries are easily preventable. Read on for more information about the most common summer work injuries and how to avoid them.

Hyperthermia

Most of us have heard of hypothermia, but what about hyperthermia? This condition occurs when the body heats up too quickly and is unable to cool down as efficiently. Left untreated, hyperthermia can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Although spending hours in the hot sun increases your chances of heat stroke, even short periods in direct sunlight can have serious health implications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7,000 people died of heat-related illnesses in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010. That’s an average of more than 600 deaths annually.

Heat Stroke

If you work in direct sunlight or high temperatures for any period of time, you increase your chances of suffering from heat stroke. Listen to what your body is telling you; if you develop symptoms of a heat-related illness, take immediate action. Get out of the direct sunlight, drink water, and seek medical attention. Symptoms of heat stroke may include:

 

  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Death

Dehydration

When the body loses significant amounts of water, dehydration can occur. Excessive sweating is a leading cause of dehydration. The body sweats in an attempt to cool itself; if you sweat out more water than you take in, you risk becoming severely dehydrated. The best way to combat this potential work injury is to avoid working in direct sunlight for extended periods, and to consume plenty of liquids when working outside for any length of time. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Skin Cancer

When most people think of work-related illnesses and injuries, they think of conditions with immediate symptoms. However, some work-related injuries don’t become apparent for weeks, months, or even years. Workers who spend extended periods of time working outside are susceptible to complications from exposure to direct sunlight, including skin cancer. Even severe sun burns can be classified as a work injury. To prevent skin cancer and serious sun burns, wear protective clothing and a hat, work in the shade when possible, use sun block on exposed skin, and try to limit outdoor work hours to before 10 am and after 2 pm.

Construction Accidents

Construction and road work peak during summer months. As such, so do injuries common to these work environments. In summer, motor vehicle accidents involving road workers increase, as do injuries from on-site machinery at construction and road construction sites. A MA work injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Of course, slips, trips, and falls can happen in any season, but they tend to occur more frequently during summer months. This is likely due to an increase in work that involves high places during summer, such as construction, roofing, road construction, painting, and tree climbing. Broken bones, head injuries, and traumatic brain injuries can result from work-related slips, trips, and falls. To prevent serious injury or death, always use fall protection when working at high elevations. Continue reading

More than four million people suffer a work-related injury or illness in the United States annually. Of those injuries, more than two million are severe enough to result in missed work and the need for ongoing medical treatment. For about 1,000 of these workers, injuries are fatal. The good news is, most of these injuries are preventable. Read on for more information about the most commonly-filed workers’ compensation claims, and how to avoid being injured at work.

Leading Work-Related Injuries

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance intended to protect workers, both financially and medically, if they are injured on the job. The on-the-job injuries that result in the most workers’ comp claims include:

  • Slips, trips and falls: Wet floors, icy walkways, and uneven flooring can all cause slips, trips and falls in the workplace. Sometimes falls are just embarrassing…sometimes they are deadly. Falls account for 15 percent of all accidental fatalities, and they are second only to car accidents as a cause of death.
  • Overexertion: Lifting, pulling, or pushing a heavy object can lead to overexertion. If a worker extends a joint beyond its normal range of motion, it can result in immediate pain and a long recovery period. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.
  • Struck by an object: These injuries are especially common in occupations that involve mass storage of inventory or supplies. If an employee attempts to reach an item on a high shelf and it falls, the employee may be struck by the item. Such injuries range widely in severity, from minor to fatal.
  • Roadway accidents: Most common among truck drivers, roadway accidents can occur for various reasons, including inclement weather, driver fatigue or distraction, OUI, and other road hazards. On or off the clock, roadway accidents are a leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
  • Repetitive Motion: Construction sites and factories may be inherently dangerous places to work, but even a corporate office can cause debilitating injuries. In fact, repetitive motion injuries from typing and using the computer are among the most common workers’ compensation claims. Injuries such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis can make performing even the most routine office tasks extremely painful.
  • Falls to a lower level: When a worker falls off a roof, ladder, or down a flight of stairs, life-threatening injuries can occur. These injuries are most common in the construction industry, but any person in any occupation can suffer from fall-related injuries. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job.
  • Electrocution: These accidents account for about 1,000 deaths in the United States annually. Faulty wiring, power lines, and malfunctioning appliances are the most common causes of work-related electrocutions. Electricians, construction workers, and utility employees have the highest risk for electrocution accidents.

Report Your Concerns

Work-related injuries and deaths cost about $155.5 billion annually. You can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death by making sure that your work space is clean, safe, and that you have received adequate training. If you feel that your workplace is unsafe, speak with a supervisor. If your supervisor fails to address your concerns, you can always contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency assesses work environments to ensure that they follow specific health and safety standards at all times. Continue reading

In short, no. In almost every case, you can only receive benefits from the job where your work-related accident or illness occurred. But that doesn’t mean that a second job is irrelevant. If you are injured on the job, and you have multiple jobs, it is essential that you report the other job to your employer, and to your MA workers’ compensation attorney. Failing to do so can result in serious repercussions.

To receive workers’ comp benefits, you must prove that you suffered an accidental injury or illness, and that the injury or illness arose in the course of employment. However, even when you are able to prove this, employers and insurance companies usually don’t give in without a fight. And when it comes to multiple jobs, the fight can get even more complicated. According to USA Today, about 7.8 million Americans have two or more jobs. What happens to these workers when they are injured at one job, receive workers’ comp benefits from that employer, but cannot work at their other full or part-time job?

Total Disability

Workers’ compensation benefits generally cover up to two-thirds of your average weekly pay. Considering that you can only recover compensation from the job at which you were injured, the 7.8 million workers with multiple jobs may find themselves in a sticky financial situation. But there is some good news. If a work-related injury leaves you totally disabled, the pre-injury wage from which your benefits are calculated will include wages from other jobs. In fact, it will even include overtime and bonuses received. Benefits for total disability can last up to three years.

Partial Disability

If, on the other hand, you are partially disabled, benefits will be based on the difference between your current earnings and your pre-injury wages. As such, multiple jobs will still be factored into the calculations. For example, if you make $500 per week at job A and are injured at job A, and you make $250 per week at job B, what happens if you can’t work at either job? In this scenario, the 60 percent will be based on the difference between pre-injury and post-injury wages. Since this is $750 vs. $0, the difference is $750, and the benefits will be based on that amount.

Can a Second Employer Terminate Me for Missing Work?

We’ve discussed workers’ comp pay when multiple jobs are involved, but what about job security? Well, it depends on the type of employer. If you are injured at job A and your injury prevents you from working at job B, your position at job B is safe if job B is required to pay workers’ comp benefits. Some employers are not held to these laws. A Boston worker’s comp attorney can help you determine if second and subsequent employers are required to hold your job while you recover.  Continue reading

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

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

Contact Information