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 Workers’ Compensation

A behavioral health care facility in Massachusetts is facing a proposed $207,690 penalty for violations discovered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during an inspection. UHS of Westwood Pembroke, Inc., which conducts business under the name Lowell Treatment Center, was issued a notification for failing to respond properly to incidents of workplace violence. The June 2017 notification followed a serious violation of a similar nature discovered by inspectors in May of 2015.

The 2015 violations resulted in the creation of a Formal Settlement Agreement in 2016 between OSHA and the facility. The agreement established a workplace violence prevention program, providing specific provisions or how the program should be implemented at the facility. Unfortunately, Lowell Treatment Center didn’t hold up its end of the bargain, failing to comply with requests for documentation showing that it had implemented the program. In addition, OSHA officials received a complaint that employees were still at risk. In response, the agency conducted a follow-up inspection on January 5, 2017. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Employees are Still at Risk

During the inspection, OSHA discovered multiple violations, and that the facility had failed to comply with several aspects of its established agreement. ”Our inspectors found that employees throughout the Lowell Treatment Center continued to be exposed to incidents of workplace violence that could have been greatly reduced had the employer fully implemented the settlement agreement,” said Galen Blanton, Boston’s regional administrator for OSHA. A MA work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

The Lowell Treatment Center is a 41-bed psychiatric hospital for adults and adolescents, and the UHS network is one of the largest health-care management companies in the country. UHS has notified OSHA that it intends to contest the agencies findings.

Common OSHA Violations

OSHA exists to enforce standards for safe working conditions, and to provide related training, outreach and assistance. In 2015, OSHA released its most recent top 10 list for frequently cited violations. These were:

  • Fall protection: Different fall protection systems are required for different jobs and situations.
  • Hazard communication: Employers are required to create a program for informing workers of on-the-job chemical hazards.
  • Scaffoldings: Having a competent person in charge of compliance and supervision is essential to scaffolding safety.
  • Respiratory protection: Toxic gases and fumes can make any workplace deadly without proper respiratory protection.
  • Lockout / Tagout : Workers can be killed when servicing equipment that starts unexpectedly. Lockout / tagout practices should be implemented to control the unexpected release of energy in machines.
  • Powered industrial trucks: These include forklifts, order pickers, and stand-up rider lift trucks.
  • Ladders: OSHA requires that ladders are well maintained to prevent structural defects and wear and tear, and that ladders are only used for their intended purpose.
  • Methods of electrical wiring: OSHA has established strict electrical standards to protect workers who are exposed to the dangers of electric shock, electrocution, explosions, and
  • Machine guarding: This general guarding standard also requires that machines are anchored to prevent dangerous movement.
  • General requirements for electrical work: Employers must install and care for equipment as the manufacturer intends.

Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a slow-growing cancer that forms in a thin layer of tissue surrounding certain internal organs, including the lungs, chest wall, and abdomen. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often so advanced when discovered that long-term prognoses are rarely good. In fact, of the 50,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013, approximately 34,000 succumbed to the disease. A skilled MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Causes of Mesothelioma

Prolonged exposure to asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a carcinogenic substance that was used as a type of insulation for years until a link to cancer and other respiratory illnesses was discovered in the late 1970s. That does not mean, however, that asbestos is no longer a concern. For starters, people who haven’t worked with asbestos in decades are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma annually. And asbestos remains a hazard of many occupations. The most common causes of mesothelioma include:

  • Occupational: Coal miners and construction workers have a significantly-higher risk of developing mesothelioma than other workers.
  • Environmental: Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance. If you happen to live near a high concentration of asbestos, you have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
  • Exposure to asbestos in buildings: If you live, work, or attend school in a building that was built before 1980, asbestos may be present.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

This particularly virulent form of cancer can grow for decades before being discovered. According to the Mesothelioma Center, there are four recognized stages of the disease.

  • Stage 1: Tiny tumors may develop within the lining of a lung. The disease hasn’t yet spread, so symptoms are generally non-existent at this stage.
  • Stage 2: As the tumors continue to grow, they may begin to spread to other parts of the chest cavity. Although symptoms may still be minor, or even non-existent, some symptoms may include chest pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
  • Stage 3: At this point, tumors may have reached the chest wall, diaphragm and heart lining. Cancer cells may have also spread to some, but not all, lymph nodes. Symptoms may still not be apparent. However, minor symptoms are likely to begin at this stage, and may include fever, difficulty breathing, coughing, weight loss, and chest pain.
  • Stage 4: By this stage, cancer cells have spread throughout the body. This is the most advanced stage of the disease and symptoms may include fever and night sweats, severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, and a buildup of fluid in the abdomen or chest.

Continue reading

Thousands of workers are injured every year due to becoming overheated at work. Some even die. Although these injuries spike during summer months, heat stress and heat stroke can occur throughout the year. The good news is that most of these injuries are entirely preventable. Read on for more information about workplace heat illnesses and how to dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury and death.

The body continuously regulates its internal temperature. When a person begins to overheat, the body attempts to cool itself through the process of sweating. When the air surrounding the person is cool enough, the sweating process is generally effective. But if the surrounding air is too warm, or the person’s clothing doesn’t allow the sweat to evaporate off the skin, the situation can become quite dangerous. This is a common hazard during summer months, but it can even occur in winter if indoor work environments have poor ventilation and air circulation. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

The four main medical issues that can arise when a person overheats are:

  • Heat cramps: When strenuous activity is coupled with a hot environment or clothing that prohibits proper sweating, heat cramps may occur. Heat cramps can be quite painful, and often result in muscle spasms. In addition to high internal temperatures, heat cramps can also be a result of dehydration and loss of salt in the body. If you develop heat cramps, immediately move to a cool place and rest. Drink plenty of fluids; sports drinks are good for replacing both fluid and If you are still experiencing heat cramps after one hour, contact your physician.
  • Heat rash: When the body sweats excessively because hot environmental temperatures or restrictive clothing prevent sweat from evaporating off the skin properly, the skin may become irritated. The small clusters of red pimples or blisters are often located on the neck or upper chest, under the breasts, in the groin, and on the inside of elbows. Heat rash can be treated by moving to a cooler area, and keeping the affected skin dry. Heat rash usually clears up on its own.
  • Heat exhaustion: When the body becomes unable to self-regulate its internal temperature, heat exhaustion may occur. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, pale skin, severe headache, vomiting, and even fainting. The skin may actually feel cool to the touch. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop working immediately, move to a cool place, remove excessive clothing, and drink plenty of fluids. If the symptoms haven’t stopped within one hour, seek immediate medical attention. Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke if left untreated.
  • Heat stroke: When a person ignores the signs of heat exhaustion, or all attempts to cool down the body have failed, heat stroke may occur. In fact, the human body can rise to an internal temperature of more than 106 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 15 minutes. At that temperature, the brain and other important organs can suffer serious damage. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability. It can even be fatal. Symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, dry and red skin, absence of sweat, fast pulse, severe headache, dizziness, confusion, vomiting, and unconsciousness. If you suspect that you are suffering from heat stroke, move to a cool place and call for medical attention immediately.

A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke in the Workplace

  • Workers should be made aware of the dangers of working in a hot environment.
  • Rotations and breaks should be used to prevent workers from remaining in hot environments for extended periods.
  • Cool areas and access to water should be made available to all workers.
  • Workers wearing protective gear that doesn’t breathe should be given more breaks and shorter rotations.
  • New workers should be gradually acclimated to higher temperatures.
  • Employers should consider the heat index – not just the temperature – when determining whether it’s safe to work outside, and for how long. Extreme caution should be used when the heat index reaches 90 degrees or above.

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

Serious construction accidents have been on the rise in recent years, especially in high-population areas, such as Boston, New York, and New Jersey. In response, safety advocates are pushing for increased training requirements for workers in the construction industry. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced his plan to implement additional construction worker training requirements, but the real estate industry has concerns. Why?

If de Blasio and New York union leaders achieve their goal and increase training requirements for the construction industry, workers will need to receive dozens of hours of additional training, which translates to higher real estate costs and less time to complete construction jobs. Politico reports that, “In response to a recent uptick in injuries and deaths, City Hall is proposing a requirement that all workers be trained between 54 and 71 hours.” And the extra training doesn’t stop there.

The “proposal would require an extra 30 hours of training for supervisors, and certain workers would have to undergo additional ‘task specific training,’ such as working in confined spaces and with scaffolding.” Extra training couldn’t be anything but positive for the safety and well-being of construction workers and the general public, but it’s evident why the real estate industry is concerned. Before the proposed deal is approved, however, it requires City Council approval. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you or a loved one has been injured in a work-related accident.

Construction Safety

It’s as-yet unknown whether the new proposal will pass. In the meantime, construction workers and employers can dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury or death by following the safety guidelines below:

  • Workers should always use personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles, foot protection, slip resistant, safety-toed boots, snug-fitting gloves, and a hard hat.
  • Scaffolds should meet all safety requirements established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Where electrical work is being done, a lockout/tagout system should always be in place.
  • Extension cords should always have grounding prongs.
  • Multiple plug adapters should never be used at a construction site.
  • Where floor openings exist, a guardrail or appropriate cover should be used at all times.
  • Permanent floor openings should be framed with toeboards.
  • Where surfaces are elevated, post signs indicating a change in surface height.
  • Establish hazard communication protocol.
  • Only properly trained and qualified workers should operate cranes, and hoisting or rigging equipment.

In 2015, a total of 25 construction workers died on NYC construction sites, compared to 17 in 2011. Not surprisingly, undocumented immigrant workers have the greatest risk of serious injury or death on construction sites. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident. Continue reading

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance provides benefits if you are unable to work due to an injury or illness. Generally, LTD benefits are between 50 percent and 80 percent of your normal wages. Group policies can be purchased through an employer and individual policies can be purchased independently. But even the most straightforward LTD plans can be complex, and each one is different. If you are unable to work and considering filing an LTD claim, the following information will help you determine how to move forward.

A skilled Boston LTD lawyer can help you examine your group or individual LTD policy to see what benefits and limitations to expect. For starters, each policy has its own definition of the term “disability,” and your disability may or may not be covered. Further, some disabilities qualify, but with specific limitations. For instance, many insurance companies cap benefits for mental health conditions at 24 months. However, there may be exceptions for chronic and particularly severe conditions, such as schizophrenia.

Own Occupation vs. Any Occupation

Once you’ve determined that your disability is covered by your LTD policy, you must consider whether your policy falls under the category of “own occupation” or “any occupation.” Own occupation refers to an inability to perform the duties of your regular occupation, whereas any occupation refers to an inability to perform the duties of any job. Own occupation is less strict: you will receive benefits if you cannot do your current job, even if you can do another job in its place.

On the other hand, “any occupation” benefits will not be received unless you are unable to perform any job. For instance, if you can no longer deal with the physical strain of a construction job, but you can do a desk job, an any occupation policy would not provide benefits. Many policies switch from own occupation to any occupation after a set time period, typically 24 months.

Waiting Periods and Exclusions

Most policies exclude pre-existing conditions, which means that any medical condition for which you’ve been treated in the past 90 days will not be covered. LTD policies also generally contain something called an “elimination period,” during which you are disabled but no benefits are available. It usually lasts between 90 and 180 days. Short-term disability (STD) benefits are intended to bridge this gap.

As stated above, every LTD policy is different. Some pay benefits until retirement age, others pay for five or 10 years. In almost every circumstance, you will have to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) before you can receive LTD benefits. SSDI is an income-based program intended to offset your LTD benefits if you qualify.

If your LTD is from a group policy (employer sponsored), you will likely have to pay taxes on any benefits you receive as group policies are usually purchased with pre-tax dollars. If, however, you have an individual plan, you may have purchased it with after-tax dollars, in which case your benefits will be tax free.

What if My Benefits are Denied?

Denials are actually quite common. If your initial application was denied, you can appeal the decision internally, before taking it to federal court. An experienced MA disability attorney can help you appeal a denial so that you may receive the full benefits to which you are entitled. 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

In 2016, Travelers Insurance released an “Injury Impact Report” identifying the leading causes of work-related injury accidents. The study reviewed more than 1.5 million workers’ comp claims from a diverse selection of industries. The claims, filed between 2010 and 2014, revealed the top five most common claims and their relative costs.

Lost Work Time

The most common injuries by far were strains, sprains and fractures, contusions, cuts and punctures, inflammation, and chronic sickness. The average lost work time for strains and sprains was 57 days, and cuts and punctures followed at 24 days. But the main causes of missed work time were inflammation and fractures, with fractures resulting in 78 days lost and inflammation-related injuries resulting in 91. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident

Contact Information