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Articles Posted in Workplace Safety

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.

Continue reading

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

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found a Cincinnati-based food company to be guilty of multiple safety violations that led to a worker having one of his arms amputated below the elbow after an avoidable accident occurred at their factory.

Klosterman Baking Co. now faces close to $150,000 in citations due to their negligence, which involved not enforcing proper safety precautions in the cleaning and maintenance of their machinery. The 28-year-old employee eventually lost his arm after it was injured while cleaning a machine and a conveyor belt with a compressed air wand.

Even worse, the follow-up OSHA investigation revealed that Klosterman Baking Co. continued to expose its employees to the same risks that wound up severely injuring their employee. Even after somebody was seriously injured, they continued to operate without the proper safety precautions and made no attempts to protect other employees from the same potential harm.

When we are fatigued, even the most routine task can become challenging. But when the task at hand involves heavy machinery, high places, dangerous substances, or getting behind the wheel, fatigue can be deadly. When Massachusetts workers are fatigued they are less productive and prone to making more errors. So it stands to reason that employers wouldn’t want workers to be fatigued. Despite this logic, it’s not uncommon for employers to overwork employees; meeting deadlines and filling orders often take priority. But these short-sighted plans can create dangerous workplace conditions and can be costly for employers.

According to reports, employers lose about $136 billion annually to worker fatigue-related issues. In addition to lost productivity, fatigued workers can quadruple an employer’s workers’ compensation costs due to a higher frequency of accidents and subsequent injuries. Fatigued workers can hurt themselves, but they also put their co-workers at risk. If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today.

Reducing Worker Fatigue

Employers can take steps to reduce worker fatigue, thus improving productivity, and reducing liability and associated costs. To do this they should:

  • Discuss shift schedules with workers and take worker considerations into account.
  • Meet the physiological and sociological criteria of individual workers.
  • Test out different shift rotations for each worker to determine what works best.

Worker fatigue is not a minor concern. It is an issue that puts workers at risk on a daily basis and costs employers millions of dollars annually. If you feel that your workplace conditions are unsafe, report the conditions to a supervisor. If your supervisor does not respond to your concerns, you can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and contact a MA work injury lawyer today.

Signs and Symptoms of Fatigue

Although employers can take steps to prevent worker fatigue, some problems are rooted outside of the workplace. Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy can all disturb healthy sleep patterns and result in fatigue at work. Excessive alcohol use, some prescription and over the counter medications, and obesity are also contributing factors. The following signs are good indicators that a worker may be fatigued:

  • General tiredness or sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Digestive problems
  • Chronic illness

When are Workers Sleepiest?

According to Alberta Human Resources and Employment, most fatigue-related work accidents occur during third shift hours, between midnight and six a.m. That’s no big surprise. But the one to three p.m. nap time came in at a close second. Fatigue reduces decision making abilities, communication skills, productivity and performance, attention and concentration, memory, reaction time, and a worker’s ability to handle stress. Being excessively tired on the job can also increase a tendency for risk taking, and can result in increased sick time, employee turnover, and overall medical costs. Bottom line – workplace fatigue is expensive. Continue reading

LTL freight company, Central Transport, has committed to work on improving their company-wide safety protocols, and to specifically address safety concerns regarding outdated and unsafe forklifts and industrial trucks at over 100 of their terminals in 26 states across the nation.  The commitment to safety changes came after extensive investigations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed many citations and violations of safety standards, totaling $165,400 in total penalties, which Central Transport must pay as part of the agreement. These violations could have caused, and may still cause, crushing or struck-by injuries at these locations.

Central Transport must remove damaged, defective and unsafe forklifts from all of their locations and implement a comprehensive and detailed timetable and a step-by-step list on how they will address safety concerns moving forward.  These steps must be verified by an internal monitor to ensure that the implementation is going according to the agreement. This monitor will make at least 20 checks on terminals across their service area. In addition to an internal monitor, a third party monitor will also made unannounced checks on their terminals and conduct interviews with employees to see if the changes are being implemented.

The violations were noted at Central Transport terminals in 26 states, including the Billerica terminal in Massachusetts. It is now up to each of these states to honor and enforce this settlement agreement to help ensure the safety of its workers.

Proper safety regulations are non-negotiable

Industrial jobs, such as working in a loading dock for a freight company like Central Transport, carry inherent risks for the employees. Any profession that involves heavy machinery, large trucks and massive payloads may pose obvious dangers that could lead to permanent injuries or death.  It is for this reason that all companies that employ workers in potentially-dangerous fields should take the utmost care to ensure that they are doing everything possible to prevent avoidable accidents that can lead to the irreversible harm or death of their employees. OSHA exists to hold companies accountable for this responsibility, and this recent agreement shows why OSHA is important.

Were it not for OSHA investigating and revealing unsafe working conditions, how long would Central Transport have pushed their luck using outdated and hazardous forklifts? Would change only have happened after somebody was hurt, or worse? Now that they have been cited and given the order to update their safety protocols, it will hopefully result in an overall safer work environment for their employees. Continue reading

As of December 15, marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts. Although it will no longer be a crime to smoke pot on your own time, employers aren’t necessarily going to be fond of your perfectly-legal hobby. In fact, employers can still fire, or refuse to hire you, if you smoke marijuana. This is even true if you only partake outside of normal work hours. Here’s the thing – marijuana is still against federal law. For this reason, employers can retain personal conduct policies that prohibit marijuana use and can fire you if a drug test returns positive results.

Each of the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana have workplace drug policy exemptions. In MA, the law states that “the authority of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the consumption of marijuana by employees” is not changed. Considering that THC may remain in a user’s system for weeks, it stands to reason that if your employer drug tests – and you wish to keep your job – you may want to abstain from using marijuana, at least for the time being. If you have questions about how the change in marijuana laws will impact you, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

No Way to Measure “Actual” Marijuana Use

Critics of employers who continue to drug test for marijuana say it’s an unfair practice. “It’s the equivalent of firing somebody who drank a glass of wine on Friday evening and then came to work on Monday,” said Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance’s legal director. He believes zero-tolerance policies should adapt to changing laws. In an effort to develop more accurate testing methods which measure actual marijuana impairment rather than just the drug’s presence, experts are working on Breathalyzer-esque devices. Such a device could be used by employers and, possibly more importantly, by law enforcement to determine if an individual is “too stoned” to drive safely.

Zero-tolerance drug testing can also be a challenge for businesses that rely on young professionals who often have liberal attitudes about marijuana. This is especially true in the mostly-liberal states that have recently legalized marijuana. Consider Colorado. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize pot. At the beginning, there was an increase in drug testing, but that has since changed.

“We have ski industries out here, and if they really took a hard line on marijuana use, they would have to shut down,” said Curtis Graves, the Colorado-based Mountain States Employers Council information resource manager. Continue reading

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