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Articles Posted in Workplace Hazards

According to a recent National Safety Council survey, more than 70 percent of employers nationwide report being directly affected by the misuse of prescription drugs in their workplaces. Despite this, only 39 percent of employers surveyed view prescription drug abuse as a safety threat, and even less – 24 percent – consider it to be a measurable problem. And although 71 percent of U.S. employers agree that abuse of prescription drugs is a disease that requires treatment, 65 percent consider it a justifiable reason for employee termination. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been terminated due to a substance abuse disorder.

The results above show the significant gap between the actual cost of prescription drug abuse for U.S. workplaces, and employer perception. The reality is that substance abuse costs American taxpayers more than $440 billion each year. Businesses suffer significant losses due to healthcare costs, low productivity, and absenteeism of workers with addictions. However, research has shown that it benefits both employer and employee when the employer helps get the employee into treatment. In fact, doing so can save the employer up to $2,607 per year. But a change in employer perception is crucial to a positive outcome. As long as 65 percent of employers feel that employee termination is the answer to addiction issues, the possibility of employer-initiated treatment programs is slim. But firing and re-hiring may actually cost much more in the long run.

Statistics From the National Safety Council Report

The following statistics about substance abuse in the workplace were revealed during the survey:

  • Employees with substance abuse disorders are absent nearly 50 percent more often than their peers.
  • Workers with substance abuse disorders miss up to six weeks of work each year.
  • The industries that suffer the most from substance abuse disorders include entertainment, construction, and food service businesses; these industries have twice the national average of employees with these disorders.
  • Female-dominated industries have a two-thirds lower rate of these disorders.
  • Untreated substance use disorders cost employers between $2,600 and $13,000 per worker, annually.
  • Workers in recovery are less likely to miss work, and have significantly lower turnover rates.
  • By providing assistance, employers in some industries could save more than $8,400 per worker.
  • The cost of healthcare for a worker with a substance abuse disorder is three times that of the cost for an average worker.

“This is a wakeup call for businesses. When it comes to addiction’s cost in the workplace, the numbers are staggering,” said Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof, one of the companies that contributed to the National Safety Council report. To show employers the importance of having a workplace prescription drug abuse program, Shatterproof and the National Safety Council have developed the Substance Use Cost Calculator, which allows employers to calculate how this crisis is impacting their workplace. A MA injury lawyer can help if you have been fired because of a substance abuse disorder.

“Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the National Safety Council’s president and CEO. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business. As the tool shows, the cost of inaction is far too great.” Continue reading

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has partnered with Barr & Barr Inc, a construction management company, to use the construction of Amherst College’s New Science Center as a model for workplace safety. Barr & Barr will create a health and safety plan, establishing benchmarks and goals for subcontractors to meet or exceed.

Plan Elements

The workplace health and safety plan, which will be administered by qualified safety and health representatives, will include the following elements:

  • Weekly project safety discussions with subcontractors.
  • Quarterly safety stand-downs.
  • Reviews of upcoming projects.
  • Analysis of workplace hazards.
  • Evaluation of the partnership on an annual basis.

Plan evaluations will be consistently reviewed and evaluated by OSHA to ensure that training is effective. At least one representative from OSHA will attend monthly review meetings. “Our common goal is to ensure a safe and healthful working environment at the construction site and for this project. Partnerships bring together recognized best workplace practices and create success,” said OSHA’s area director in Springfield, Mary Hoye. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve suffered a work-related injury or illness. If negligence played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation.

Strategic Partnership Program

The project, which is estimated to cost about $195 million, includes the construction of the 250,000 square foot, four-story science center. Signed in January 2017, the project is scheduled to conclude in August 2018. The Amherst project is one element of the larger Strategic Partnership Program, which OSHA established to recognize voluntary efforts of partners to eliminate serious hazards in the workplace.

“We are delighted to enter into this partnership with OSHA for the Amherst College New Science Center. It is our belief that this partnership agreement will enhance the entire team efforts to provide state-of-the-art safety programs, and will be a major benefit to the men and women building the project,” said executive vice president and chief operating officer of Barr & Barr, Stephen Killian. If you have been injured on the job, it is essential to consult with an experienced Boston work injury lawyer as soon as possible.

OSHA Worker Rights

Everyone is entitled to a safe workplace under federal law. Your employer must provide a safe workplace that is free of safety hazards and health risks. If you are concerned about the safety of your work environment, you have the right to report the issues without fear of retaliation. The following are worker rights, protected by federal law. If you feel that any of your rights are being violated, you can report your concerns to OSHA.

  • Workers should receive training in a language they understand.
  • Workers must be able to work on safe, properly maintained machines.
  • Workers should have access to essential safety gear.
  • Workers must be protected from toxic chemicals.
  • Workers can request an OSHA inspection at any time.
  • Workers can report illness or injury.
  • Workers may obtain a copy of their medical records.
  • Workers may obtain a copy of the workplace injury log.
  • Workers may obtain a copy of work-related injuries.
  • If tests are conducted to identify hazards in the workplace, workers may obtain a copy of the results.

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Believe it or not, the healthcare industry has one of the highest rates of workplace accidents and injuries. Workers face biological hazards, exposure to chemicals and drugs, and radioactive material hazards on a regular basis. In fact, more healthcare workers are injured on the job than workers in any other industry. Read on for more information about the dangers healthcare workers face and how to dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death if you work in this industry.

What Makes the Healthcare Industry So Dangerous?

In addition to the usual work-related injuries, such as repetitive stress injuries and those caused by slip and fall accidents, healthcare workers have a disproportionate risk of many other hazards. Some of these potentially life-threatening hazards include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens and other biological hazards
  • Exposure to chemicals and drugs
  • Exposure to anesthetic gases
  • Respiratory hazards
  • Ergonomic hazards common to heavy lifting
  • Laser hazards
  • Laboratory hazards
  • Exposure to radioactive materials
  • Workplace violence

Some common, and very dangerous, chemicals that healthcare workers may be exposed to include formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, and paracetic acid. A MA work injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve following a healthcare-related work injury.

Healthcare and Social Assistance Worker Injury Statistics

In 2010, there were approximately 653,900 reported injury and illness cases in the healthcare and social assistance industry. The industry with the next highest number of injuries was manufacturing, with only 501,900. That’s a difference of 152,000 cases. So, what type of healthcare jobs have the highest risk? Nursing aides and orderlies have it the worst, with 249 out of every 10,000 workers suffering from musculoskeletal injuries. In contrast, the average for all workers (including non-healthcare) is 34 out of 10,000. The healthcare industry includes such a wide variety of jobs and tasks, from surgeons and nurses to mechanical maintenance and food service workers. And most of these jobs have a higher-than-average rate of injury. If you have been injured on the job, contact a Boston work injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Tips for Reducing Risk of Healthcare Injuries

Nearly half of all healthcare worker injuries are caused by overexertion or motions such as lifting and bending. Sprains and strains account for most of the reported injuries. By following the tips below, you can reduce your risk of serious injury on the job.

  • Identification and assessment of all hazards
  • Hazard prevention and control training
  • Overall safety training
  • Regular program evaluations
  • Minimal-lift policies
  • Lift-assistance equipment, which can include ceiling-mounted lifts and slide sheets that help during lateral transfers (bed to surgical table)

If you are concerned about the safety of your hospital work environment, talk to a supervisor. If the supervisor fails to respond to your concerns, you can always contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate the situation to determine if any changes must be made.                 Continue reading

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has levied fines against New Jersey-based Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning and General Contracting of Massachusetts Inc. after a second incident involving a worker falling from a roof happened within the same year.

The first incident occurred on Nov. 29, 2015 when an employee fell 26 feet off a roof in Newton, and the second incident occurred in Lexington on Oct. 24, 2016 when a worker fell nine feet from a garage roof. The same company had already been cited for a similar event in March of 2014 as well that occurred in New Jersey.

An inspection by OSHA revealed that, in the incident that occurred in Lexington, the employee working atop the garage did not have adequate fall protection prior to his accident, and neither did his foreman, who was vulnerable to a fall from a much higher roof of 26 feet. OSHA fined Ned Stevens $68,591 in total for this violation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a robust whistleblowing program which encourages and protects individuals who wish to report a safety concern from retaliatory penalties placed on them by their employers.

You may submit a whistleblower report multiple ways, including an online form, a document which you may print, fill out and mail in, or by telephoning or writing a letter to your local OSHA office. OSHA will then conduct an interview with the whistleblower to assess whether or not an investigation is necessary.

OSHA has official protections legislation in place for a large variety of different hazardous situations to employees. They prevent retaliation against employees who report hazardous safety conditions or safety violations. Some of them include:

  • The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
    • Protects employees that report incidents of asbestos
  • The Clean Air Act
    • Prohibits retaliation against employees that report issues regarding air quality
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act
    • Prohibits retaliation against employees that report incidents of polluting water sources
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act
    • Protects employees that report violations relating to the disposal of solid and hazardous waste
  • Federal Railroad Safety Act/ National Transit Systems Security Act
    • Protects employees of railroad carriers and contractors and transit employees who report hazardous safety or security conditions
  • Pipeline Safety Improvement Act
    • Protects employees who report violations regarding pipeline safety and security
  • Surface Transportation Assistance Act
    • Protects truck drivers and transit employees that refuse to violate safety regulations
  • Affordable Care Act
    • Protects employees who report violations regarding discrimination, denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions or insurance company violations
  • Consumer Financial Protection Act
    • Provides protections for employees that violate financial policies placed by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, such as Wall Street infractions or fraudulent activity
  • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
    • Protects employees that report violations of consumer product safety, including manufacturers, importers, distributors, private labelers, and retailers
  • FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
    • Protects employees of food manufacturers, distributors, packers, and transporters that report any violation regarding the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

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Asbestos has been linked to deadly forms of cancer for decades – this isn’t news. Here’s what’s shocking – about 1.3 million Americans are still working in an environment with significant asbestos exposure every day.  It’s happening here in Massachusetts and all over the country.  What is going on? Why are so many workers still involuntarily exposed to such a deadly substance?  Asbestos has been used in building for decades, due to its durability and flame-resistant properties. As a naturally-occurring material, asbestos particles are inhaled in trace quantities by all of us, every day. It’s when we breathe in significant levels of this harmful substance that serious health conditions can develop. Short-term problems include coughing and shortness of breath. However, long-term exposure can lead to more serious complications, including a highly-deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. Classified as a carcinogen, asbestos has been linked to everything from colorectal cancer to lung cancer.

1.3 Million U.S. Workers Exposed to Asbestos Daily

In addition to the 1.3 million who are currently exposed to significant levels of asbestos every day, there are millions of older people who spent decades working with and around asbestos before we fully understood the associated dangers. Because conditions such as mesothelioma can take up to 30 years to become apparent, workers are being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases and conditions today that they first acquired decades ago. This is of special concern for older workers. Who do they sue for damages if the employer responsible for their asbestos exposure has been out of business for decades? Fortunately, there is some good news – asbestos trusts exist to compensate these victims.

Occupations with Highest Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Despite the known dangers, asbestos exposure is still quite common in many occupations. Which occupations pose the greatest risk? Although many companies take proper safety measures to mitigate the risk of asbestos exposure, the occupations below traditionally have the highest risk of exposure, even today.

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Paper mills
  • Shipbuilding
  • HVAC jobs
  • Auto repair
  • Roofing
  • Manufacturing of products that contain asbestos
  • Janitorial jobs

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When a chronic medical condition is a result of your work environment, it may be considered an occupational disease.  Any worker in Massachusetts needs to know that any exposures to toxins, poor air quality, and lack of proper ergonomics can all contribute to a vast array of debilitating medical conditions and diseases. Tracing the signs and symptoms back to the work environment can be challenging, as many occupational diseases can also be experienced by the general public. However, approximately 860,000 illnesses and 60,300 fatalities are thought to be a result of workplace environments annually in the United States. Recent studies show that 17% of hospital and primary care patients believe their illness is related to harmful exposure in their place of employment. Of these patients, an estimated 10% are officially diagnosed with a work-related medical condition. Because early diagnosis of many illnesses can reduce chances of disability or death, understanding potential hazards you may be exposed to is important.

Respiratory Diseases

Inhalation of toxins can cause a variety of lung conditions and is a concern in many different industries. Asthma, rhino-sinusitis, and bronchitis are frequently cited as work-related medical issues. Pneumoconiosis is a general, umbrella term referring to various types of reactions to the inhalation of dust. The number of fatalities from pneumoconiosis was 260,000 in 2013.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a type of pneumoconiosis caused by extended or intensive exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral made of long thin fibrous crystals that irritate the tissues in the lungs. Occupational exposure can occur in manufacturing and mining work, as well asbestos removal. Severe shortness of breath and dry coughing are common symptoms. Risks of long-term inhalation can lead to malignant cancers and mesothelioma. In 2013, asbestosis resulted in 24,000 fatalities in the United States. Continue reading

A worker was injured in an Amherst construction accident when a granite slab weighing about 700 pounds fell on him while he was on the job at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. Carlos Velasquez injured his hip, shoulder, and leg. He was transported to a Springfield hospital.

The Massachusetts work accident took place while the 55-year-old worker was underpinning supports for a renovation and expansion project. Velazquez is employed by Schnabel Foundation Co. The Springfield company is the subcontractor for this job.

The impact of the granite slab falling onto Velasquez pushed him into an excavated area. Workers removed the slab from his body.

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As part of commemorating Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday, labor leaders in Springfield read the names of the 62 people killed in Massachusetts work accidents in the last 16 months—that’s a little over one death a week. National Council for Occupational Safety and Heath director Mary Vogel said that most of the worker injury deaths could have been prevented if only there had been the necessary safety-minded precautions and procedures in place.

Workers’ Memorial Day—April 28—marks the annual anniversary of when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970. Last year, there were 4,500 workplace fatalities in the U.S.—a figure that has stayed pretty consistent in the last few years. Many more workers sustained injuries or work-related diseases because of their jobs.

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In a recent Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog post, we wrote about an NPR and ProPublica probe that found that recent workers’ compensation reforms are hurting more than helping injured workers. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued its report that reflects similar findings.

According to OSHA’s report, statistics show that over three million workers are hurt every year, with thousands killed while doing their job. These figures do not include incidents that go unreported and chronic illnesses that continue even after exposure on the job to hazardous substances has stopped.

Many workers who were seriously hurt find it hard to keep working—especially as modifications to workers comp. insurance programs have made it harder for someone who was hurt on the job to get full benefits. Employers are now taking care of just a small portion of overall workplace injury and illness costs through their work injury compensation programs.

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