Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Work-related injuries can occur in any occupation, from secretaries and librarians to construction workers and miners. You don’t have to be working in a “dangerous industry” to get injured. In fact, repetitive motion injuries are most common among office workers. Repetitive motion injuries often affect the hand and arm, causing a wide range of complications, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

But hand and arm injuries can also be more catastrophic; thousands of crush injuries, lacerations and amputations occur annually in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 50,000 workers suffer an arm injury every year. Arm injuries cause workers to miss an average of 11 days of work. And work-related hand injuries are even more common. The BLS estimates that more than 137,000 workers suffer a hand injury annually. These injuries typically result in less missed work, however, with the average being five days.

Combined, hand and arm injuries affect nearly 200,000 U.S. workers every year. With such staggering numbers, employers should consider reviewing their hand and arm safety policies. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured or become ill at work.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Obtaining workers’ compensation for amputations and crush injuries is often easier than for repetitive motion injuries, which are more common but harder to prove. Further, repetitive motion injuries are not felt all at once after a single, traumatic event. Rather, the pain and complications associated with repetitive motion injuries reveal themselves over time as they continue to damage the nerves, muscles, and / or tendons. But when these injuries become apparent, they can be just as debilitating as a more “serious” injury. The pain from bursitis or epicondylitis (tennis elbow), for example, can be excruciating. If a worker is no longer able to perform his or her job due to this type of injury, the loss of income can be just as devastating as it is with sudden injuries, such as amputations or chemical burns to the eyes.

Traumatic Injuries

With the more event-based, traumatic injuries such as amputations and crush injuries, the cause is often related to poor employee training, lack of safety gear, and failure to implement proper lockout/tagout procedures, which protect against unexpected start ups while workers are performing maintenance on a machine. If employer negligence played a role in a hand or arm injury, the worker may be entitled to additional compensation – beyond workers’ comp benefits – for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. For example, an employer may neglect to properly guard machinery and provide employees with appropriate safety gear. If the failure to do so results in a serious injury, the employer may be liable.

According to the BLS, thousands of U.S. workers lose a body part to workplace amputations annually, and about 21 workers die from these amputations. The most common pieces of equipment responsible for work-related amputations and crushing injuries are drill and mechanical power presses, meat grinders, food slicers, conveyors, portable and table saws, milling shears and machines, slitters and grinders, and power press brakes.

Lacerations

Serious lacerations account for up to 30 percent of all on-the-job injuries. Deep puncture wounds and lacerations that involve tendon or nerve damage are often due to poor training and safety protocol, failure to wear appropriate safety gear, and lack of guarding equipment. These injuries can occur because the worker simply wasn’t paying attention, but all too often employer negligence is a factor. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured at work. Continue reading

Most work-related injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation, but not all injuries are easy to prove. This is especially true of emotional disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A worker who experiences something traumatic or horrific on the job may develop symptoms of PTSD, which can make it nearly impossible to perform essential job duties. If an individual cannot work due to work-related PTSD, is he eligible for workers’ compensation?

What Causes PTSD?

PTSD is defined as an emotional or physical response to the memory of a traumatic event. Often associated with soldiers returning from war, PTSD can occur due to a car accident, domestic abuse, or any type of trauma. The following work-related events may cause PTSD:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Verbal abuse
  • Witnessing the death of a co-worker
  • Riots in a prison
  • Exposure to any type of violence
  • Receiving threats
  • Bank robbery
    Severe injuries, such as burns and amputations
  • Being attacked

Certain occupations have a higher than average incidence of traumatic events. These include law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters. However, any dangerous or high stress work environment comes with an increased risk of developing PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

Individuals suffering from PTSD may experience the following symptoms:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Fear of going to work
  • Loss of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sadness, anger, or generally negative feelings

All of the symptoms above could make it difficult for a person suffering from PTSD to perform his job duties. Further, if someone continues to work while suffering from the symptoms above, he could put himself and his co-workers in grave danger. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

So, Does Workers’ Comp Cover PTSD?

In MA, workers’ comp does provide benefits for workers suffering from PTSD, as long as the injury is work-related. That being said, due to the difficulty in proving the existence of PTSD, obtaining benefits can be a serious challenge. While a chemical burn or an amputated finger is visibly obvious, a psychological disability is not. In addition, the worker must prove that his PTSD was caused by a work-related event and was not a pre-existing condition.

PTSD may be a standalone work injury, or it may appear in connection to a more obvious physical injury. In many cases, a worker who sustains severe injuries may recover from the physical injuries long before the PTSD symptoms subside. In fact, PTSD symptoms can linger for years following a traumatic event.

If you apply for workers’ comp for PTSD, your employer’s insurance carrier will do everything possible to avoid paying the claim. The insurer may review your medical records, contact you repeatedly, and even conduct surveillance. As such, it is essential to consult with an experienced MA workers’ comp lawyer if you are suffering from work-related PTSD. Continue reading

It’s cold outside. Really cold. For those who have to work outside in the elements, the cold can be more than just a nuisance. It can be deadly. Winter 2018 is expected to be one of the coldest in years. Even so, some people have no choice but to brave the elements. Many construction workers, for example, work outside year round, even during New England’s harshest winters.

Tips for Keeping Construction Employees and Contractors Safe When it’s Cold

If your employees work outside for extended periods during winter months, what can you do to protect their health and safety, and reduce your liability? The tips below can help.

 

  • When temperatures are extreme, limit outside work schedules so that workers are in the elements for shorter periods of time. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

 

  • Require workers to wear proper gear at all times. If they don’t have their own gear, supply it. Every worker should be equipped with a heavy coat, boots, gloves, and a hat. Gear should be water resistant, and shoes should have nonslip soles to prevent slipping on snow or ice.

 

  • Watch weather forecasts. If a blizzard is on the horizon, working outside could be dangerous. Even driving to and from the job site could put workers at unnecessary risk. If heavy snowfall and ice are in the forecast, consider taking the day off.

 

  • Ensure that workers have access to a warm area for breaks. When the weather outside is frightful, workers need a place to escape from the elements and warm themselves. A heated trailer or tent can do the trick.

 

  • Tell workers to limit their coffee intake. Although a cup of hot coffee might seem like the perfect winter warmer, caffeine can increase the heart rate, making someone feel warmer than they actually are. That being said, fluids are important when it’s cold outside. Workers should drink plenty of water throughout the day.

 

  • Inspect the work site before work begins, every Snow and ice accumulation and downed power lines can occur during the night, and pose serious risks to workers. Before work begins each morning, make sure that no hazards developed during the night.

 

  • Address any hazards. If snow and ice accumulated during the night, it should be removed or addressed before work begins. If it cannot be removed, sand or kitty litter should be put down to increase traction. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured at work.

 

  • Work vehicles should be inspected at the start of the winter season. Ensure that each vehicle is in proper working order and that it is equipped with an emergency kit, including ice scraper, shovel, flashlight, emergency flares, tow chain, a blanket, sand or kitty litter, water, and snacks.

 

  • Train workers on what to do if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident or become stranded, both of which present added consequences during extreme weather.

 

  • Ensure that workers are trained on first aid, and how to recognize signs of hypothermia and frostbite.

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Workers’ compensation exists to protect employees if they are unable to work due to a work-related injury, and employers from being sued for those injuries. Most work-related injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ comp, but there are some exceptions. Further, even claims for covered injuries and illnesses may be denied due to application errors, untimely filing, or other issues. You may find the following information helpful if your workers’ compensation claim has been denied.

When a workers’ comp claim is denied, the claimant receives a letter informing him of the decision. One of the most common reasons for denial is untimely reporting or filling. When an injury or illness occurs, the law holds that the worker must report the claim right away, often within days. It is then the employer’s duty to immediately notify its workers’ comp carrier and the state. Failure to follow these steps precisely may result in a denial.

My Employer Disputed My Claim

This is another common reason for a denial. Let’s say you claim that your back injury is work-related, but your employer thinks you actually sustained your injury playing basketball. She might dispute the validity of your claim, which could result in a denial. If this occurs, you may need to gather additional evidence to substantiate your claim.

My Condition is Not Covered

Although most on-the-job injuries are covered by workers’ comp, there are some exceptions. If your injury is not serious enough to qualify, or the condition itself isn’t covered, your claim may be denied.

In MA, an injury that occurs outside of the scope of your job duties may not be covered. For example, if you and a co-worker decide to hit some golf balls in the field outside your office building, you aren’t likely to have a workers’ comp claim if you accidentally get hit in the head with a golf club. You may have been at work, during work hours, but hitting golf balls isn’t a work-related activity. The same would be true if you were inside the building at the time of your injury. On the other hand, if the same injury occurred at a golf course, during a work outing at which you were entertaining clients, you would likely be covered by workers’ comp.

Even if your injury or illness occurred on work property and in the scope of your job duties, the medical condition itself may not be covered. Some mental health conditions, such as stress, may not qualify you for benefits. A MA workers’ comp attorney can help you determine your eligibility for benefits. Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a particularly-deadly type of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue surrounding multiple organs in the human body. As the most commonly-affected area is the lining around the lungs and chest wall, shortness of breath is often one of the first symptoms. That being said, Mesothelioma is a slow-growing form of cancer, and initial symptoms can take decades to appear. For this reason, the disease is often quite advanced when diagnosed.

More than 80 percent of Mesothelioma cases are a result of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was used in insulation before the risks were known. Well, at least before the public knew about the risks. There is evidence that asbestos manufacturers knew about the dangers long before the federal government began regulating its use. In addition to asbestos-based products, the carcinogenic mineral occurs naturally underground. As such, construction workers, those who mine asbestos, and people who work with asbestos-based products are most at risk of developing this deadly disease.

Asbestos is Not a Thing of the Past

It is a common misconception that asbestos is no longer an issue in the workplace. For starters, any building built before 1980 may contain asbestos in the roof, walls, or insulation. And even buildings built after 1980 may have asbestos. For these reasons, construction workers still have an increased risk of asbestos exposure, and thus, of developing Mesothelioma or lung cancer. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you are suffering from a work-related illness or injury.

Auto mechanics also have a higher risk of asbestos exposure. In 1989, the US Environmental Protection Agency began the process of phasing out asbestos-based brakes. But a federal court rescinded the ban in 1991. Recent analysis shows that dust samples taken from brake repair shops contain significant levels of asbestos. Unfortunately, the majority of auto-repair shops are ill-equipped to deal with this problem. In fact, compressed air used to blow dust from brakes can exacerbate the problem, filling the air with millions of asbestos-containing dust particles. All auto-repair shops should consider purchasing respirators and vacuums for mechanics who work on brakes.

Who is Most at Risk?

Although your risk of asbestos exposure is significantly lower today than 30 years ago, workers in many occupations are still at risk. Asbestos exposure remains a hazard for those who work in:

  • Auto-repair shops
  • Construction sites
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Paper mills
  • Refineries
  • Power plants
  • Ship yards

And in the following industries:

  • Auto-repair mechanics
  • Boilermakers
  • Bricklayers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Insulators
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Pipe fitters
  • Refinery workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Steelworkers

A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve developed a work-related injury or illness. Continue reading

In May 2016, an employee of the Shield Packaging Co. Inc. was seriously injured when he was accidentally injected with a flammable propellant gas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) investigation into the incident revealed that the Dudley, MA company violated multiple safety protocols. In addition to failing to provide proper training, procedures were not followed to lock the machine against unexpected startups, like the one that injured the employee.

The staffing agencies that supplied over half of Shield Packaging’s workers were also involved in the settlement agreement. Southern Mass Staffing of Worcester, and ASI Staffing Group Corp. of Leominster agreed to pay $12,222 and $12,471 in penalties, respectively. The temp agencies also agreed to develop several safeguards against future incidents, including the implementation of health and safety measures at all host companies, and the hiring of an outside safety consultant.

Shield Packaging agreed to pay $150,000 in penalties, hire an engineer to oversee the design and installation of a safety lock on the machine that injected the employee, establish a health and safety program, hire a consultant to perform a safety inspection of the entire plant, and provide documentation to OSHA that all safety issues have been corrected.

“The Shield Packaging Co. Inc., ASI Staffing Group Corp., and Southern Mass Staffing are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers,” said Mary Hoye, OSHA’s Area Director. “These settlements will help ensure that a comprehensive safety program will be developed to protect all workers – permanent and temporary – from injuries and illnesses.” A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

Lockout Tagout Procedures

When a machine unexpectedly starts, anyone working on or near the machine can be seriously injured or killed. Lockout tagout procedures are designed to protect against this type of accident. Failure to implement these procedures, as in the case above, can result in devastating consequences. Lockout tagout injuries are most common in the manufacturing industry. Those most at risk include:

  • Steel workers
  • Food processing workers
  • Construction workers
  • Chemical factory workers
  • Lumber workers

When failure to implement lockout tagout procedures results in injuries, the injuries are often serious. Crushed or amputated limbs are common, and getting caught in a machine can be fatal. In fact, lockout tagout violations occur with shocking frequency; they are consistently one of OSHA’s top 10 violations every year. When employers put productivity before worker safety, they should be held accountable for their actions. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you were injured on the job.

Workplace Injury and Illness Statistics

Work-related accidents can occur in any occupation. The statistics below provide insight into the severity and frequency of this problem in the United States.

  • More than 4.1 million people are injured on the job annually in the US.
  • Of those, more than two million are injured severely enough that they miss work and require ongoing medical treatment.
  • About 18 people die every day from a workplace injury in the US.
  • Work-related illnesses and injuries cost about $155.5 billion annually.

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The waiting period built into workers’ compensation benefits functions as a type of deductible. If you are injured on the job, workers’ comp generally pays for associated medical treatment, a portion of your lost wages, and compensation for permanent disability. If you cannot work, these payments can mean the difference between financial disaster and financial stability.

Many workers’ comp applicants are surprised to discover that benefits rarely start immediately. In most cases, beneficiaries will be subjected to a waiting period. During this time, you will be unable to collect benefit payments, with few exceptions. A MA workers’ comp lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve suffered a workplace injury.

Waiting Period

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.

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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.

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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.

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