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Articles Posted in Workplace Safety

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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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

In October 2016, two employees of Atlantic Drain Service Co. Inc. died when the trench they were working in collapsed. The trench was adjacent to a fire hydrant supply line, which broke in the collapse, filling the trench with water and killing Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation into the incident, and found that Atlantic Drain had failed in its duty to provide safety training and safeguards against collapse. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been injured in a work-related accident.

“The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented. Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility,” said OSHA’s New England regional administrator, Galen Blanton.

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

Men suffer more workplace injuries than women, but millions of women are joining the workforce in traditionally male-dominated jobs every year. And according to data from the Department of Labor, 57.2 percent of the 128 million working age women in the US have at least a part time job. In the 1950s, the same could be said for only 34 percent of working age women. Although women employed in high-risk industries, such as construction, see the greatest number of workplace injuries, all jobs have the potential to cause injury.

Common Fatal Workplace Injuries Suffered by Women

In 2014, workplace deaths among women increased by 13 percent from the previous year. Some work-related accidents are disproportionately common among women. In 2014, the most common causes of fatal workplace accidents included:

  • Homicides: Accounting for 19 percent of work-related deaths among women, workplace homicides are a leading cause of work-related death among US women. In 2010, there were 506 homicides reported in US workplaces, which is the lowest recorded total of all time. However, despite the decline in overall workplace homicides, they increased by 13% for women.
  • Motor vehicle accidents: Also one of the leading causes of fatal work injuries for male workers, about 19 percent of work-related deaths among women are due to roadway accidents. To reduce serious injury and death, it is crucial that all workers who drive on the job receive consistent and adequate safety training. A MA injury lawyer can help if you’ve lost a loved one in a work-related accident.
  • Slip and fall accidents: Falls, slips, and trips often occur indoors, where most women tend to work. To dramatically reduce fatal injuries from this type of accident, it is essential to keep work spaces clean and clutter free, immediately wipe up spills, make sure walkways are well lit, and improve workers’ safety behaviors through regular training.
  • Struck by object: When women work in industries such as manufacturing and construction, their risk of fatal accidents can be reduced through proper training, the use of safety equipment, and adherence to safety rules and regulations.

Women are also fatally injured in other jobs, including plant work, where workers may be exposed to toxic chemicals and gasses. These industries also have a higher potential for fires and explosions. A Boston workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a workplace accident.

Nonfatal injuries that disproportionately affect female workers include:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Infectious diseases
  • Respiratory problems
  • Reproductive problems (sometimes caused by exposure to harmful chemicals)
  • Anxiety and other stress disorders
  • Incidents specific to healthcare jobs, such as needlesticks

Hostile Work Environments and Stress

As women tend to experience more family conflict than men, emotional and stress disorders can  be compounded by home demands. When you consider that approximately 75 percent of single mothers work at least part time, it isn’t difficult to understand how stress can take a toll, both mentally and physically. In addition, women frequently have to deal with hostile work environments. They may be unfairly treated, or even sexually harassed by supervisors and other coworkers. This type of environment can make it difficult for women to feel comfortable reporting safety concerns, which can further add to the stress and anxiety that many female workers experience. Not to mention the distractions that come from hostile work environments. In some occupations, such as construction or plant work, a split-second distraction can be deadly. 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.

If you are injured on-the-job, workers’ compensation usually steps in to cover damages, from medical expenses to a portion of lost wages. Workers’ comp is even available if the accident was your fault. But what if the accident was a result of another’s negligence? If you fall off scaffolding because you weren’t paying attention, that’s not negligence. But if you fall off scaffolding because no harness was provided, negligence might be a factor. If you have been injured in in a construction-related accident, contact a MA work injury lawyer today.

What’s a Third-Party Lawsuit?

Here’s the thing about workers’ comp – it prohibits you from suing your employer. But what if another party was responsible for your injuries. If a third-party vendor or contractor played a role in your injuries, you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit in addition to your workers’ comp claim. If you are injured at work, you can file for workers’ comp which will provide benefits to you while protecting your employer from being sued. If the accident occurred because the brand new crane you were working on malfunctioned, you may be able to sue the crane manufacturer for defective design or faulty equipment. This is known as a third-party lawsuit. Site owners, general and sub-contractors, and equipment manufacturers are the most common types of third-party players in the construction industry.

The construction site owner and contractors may also be liable for injuries, depending on the circumstances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that general contractors and sub-contractors provide a safe working environment at all times. Further, it is their responsibility to ensure that work safety regulations are followed. They may do this through observation and trainings, adherence to codes, and by providing safe, well-maintained equipment. If general and sub-contractors fail to meet these requirements, they may be liable for damages if an accident occurs. Equipment manufacturers can also be liable if a piece of equipment is found to be defective, or if proper instructions for safe operation are not provided. If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today.

Photograph, Document, Record

Documentation is key if you believe that negligence played a role in your work injury. It is crucial to keep medical records, collect witness statements, and take photographs of any evidence or relevant information. Jot down the location of the accident, and any pertinent details about the construction site. If a third party was negligent, you may be eligible for additional compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, transportation costs, and more. Keep in mind, however, that third-party lawsuits are complex matters. The help of a skilled injury lawyer will greatly improve your chances of success.

Wrongful Death

If a loved one suffered fatal injuries in a construction-related accident, the family may be able to file a wrongful death claim if the accident was due to another’s negligence. In some cases, multiple lawsuits, including wrongful death, product liability, and personal injury, may be filed. Continue reading

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