Articles Posted in Workplace Safety

Two common cleaning solutions – both safe when used individually – created a toxic cloud of fumes when unknowingly combined by an employee, which claimed the life of the general manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Burlington, Massachusetts and injured about a dozen others. In cases such as this, where you may have been wrongfully injured or a loved one wrongfully killed, attorneys from Altman & Altman LLP in Cambridge can help if you wish to pursue legal action.

How did this tragedy occur?

This sad incident, which occurred on Nov. 7, is a reminder that even otherwise relatively safe household chemicals can become deadly without proper knowledge or care in their use. The worker who cleaned the floors used a common solution called Super 8, which is a bleach-based cleaner that contains sodium hypochlorite. What the employee didn’t know is that another separate employee had spilled an acid-based cleaner called Scale Kleen on the same floor a little while earlier.

The two chemicals combined and created a substance (chlorine gas) that “turned green and started to bubble,” according to what Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson told the media following the incident. This substance produced a gas that caused the worker to suffer a burning sensation in their eyes and difficulty breathing.

It was then that the general manager, now identified as 32-year-old Ryan Baldera, attempted to use a floor squeegee to clean up the toxic mixture, but was quickly overtaken by the fumes and later died at a hospital. A GoFundMe page set up to help his family has since raised over $125,000 as the family has not wished to pursue any legal action against anyone for the incident at this time.

To put the science simply, mixing anything with a bleach-based product is a bad idea, and can often result in the creation of deadly chlorine gas – which is a gas so potently deadly that it was often utilized in World War 1 and later banned by the Geneva Protocol for being horrendously inhumane, but has still been utilized by modern dictators to purge large numbers of political and ethnic enemies.

Possible legal ramifications

The family of the killed general manager may still wish to pursue a wrongful death claim, although it would take some investigating to figure out who may be at fault for the death. It could be the fault of the employee who spilled the Scale Kleen, or the employee who then used the Super 8 cleaner, or it could be the fault of Buffalo Wild Wings for failing to adequately train employees in how these two readily available cleaners could potentially cause a fatal reaction if they were ever mixed.

The incident is still under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as law enforcement officials, so it may come to pass that other factors contributed to the young man’s death. What is known for sure is that the workers who were tasked with cleaning the floors on the day of the incident were either unaware of the reaction caused by mixing bleach and acid, or they failed to properly communicate with one another about the chemical spill that had occurred prior to the regular use of the Super 8 cleaner.

Managers of restaurants are supposed to go through adequate ServSafe training in Massachusetts, which includes a portion on handling cleaning chemicals. If this training were not offered or not adequately carried out, the family of the victim and those who were injured as a result may have grounds for legal action. Continue reading

On October 12, a portion of a new Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans collapsed, killing three construction workers and injuring dozens more, and wreaking chaos in the city that has left family members of the victims searching for answers. Multiple investigations are under way to determine who was at fault. Cases like this showcase how important it is to know who to call when a tragedy occurs, and that is why the attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP are available around the clock to help.

The construction of a new building can be exciting, especially a large building in the middle of a downtown area – which brings with it the promise of new commerce and attraction, and will ideally bring about more tourism and financial incentives into the community.

However, when construction contractors, architectural engineering firms or others involved in the building process cut corners or fail to perform their duties in a responsible manner that treats safety as a top priority, people can be seriously hurt or killed. Additionally, in cases like this one, businesses around the collapsed property are affected as well – as many were forced to shut down for days and even weeks as a safety precaution while the building was secured.

What this event has amounted to is pain and suffering born by the families of the victims who have perished, pain and suffering born by those injured in the incident and financial damage to businesses that have had to close due to the building collapse – and for these damages, the liable party or parties may rightfully be held accountable.

Lawsuits filed

This past week, loved ones of the deceased construction workers have already filed suit against developers responsible for overseeing the project on the grounds of pain and suffering due to their relatives’ wrongful deaths. Some of those filing suit had to suffer the added burden of their loved ones being listed as missing prior to being announced dead, and then having to witness them pull their deceased loved ones from the wreckage – adding more trauma to an already horrible situation.

As with all ongoing investigations, it is not known at the time what ultimately led to the collapse. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking into the incident to find out if there were any apparent worker safety issues that contributed to deaths or injuries and if the contractors or developers failed to adhere to certain safety protocols.

There is apparently video posted from construction workers on social media that showed portions of the build that looked weak and unstable, with one worker even commenting in Spanish on one of the videos about the shoddy design and of the new construction and how it was unsafe. Videos like that, along with testimony of construction workers who were firsthand witnesses to the building process will be crucial in assessing whether or not safety standards were ignored. Continue reading

If you have been injured or become ill due to a work-related accident, you may be temporarily unable to perform the necessary tasks of your job. If you have to miss work because of a work injury, you may file a workers’ compensation claim to obtain reimbursement for medical expenses, and at least a portion of lost wages.

Once you have begun to heal, your physician may clear you to return to work. In many cases, however, this return is accompanied by multiple restrictions, put in place to prevent you from further injury or illness. These restrictions may come in the form of job modification, transitional work, or alternative job duties.

Job Modification

Depending on the type and severity of your injury, rehabilitation may be required for weeks, months, or even years. Until you are fully healed, it may be impossible to perform your previous job duties at the same level. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot perform them at all, however. Your employer can modify certain tasks to lower the physical strain on your body, for example. Although certain functions of your job might change with modification, the position itself remains the same. A Boston workers’ comp attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Transitional Work

If you are still unable to return to your job on a full-time basis, or at full capacity, you may be able to perform light-duty, transitional work until you are completely healed. If your employer has a position available that meets your physician’s restrictions, you may qualify for transitional work in a) your position, but with reduced hours, or b) a lower-stress position. As you heal, your hours can be increased and/or you can be returned to your regular job duties/position.

There are many positives to transitional work. Namely, it allows an injured employee to re-enter the workforce in a safe, healthy manner. However, it’s not uncommon for employers to bring injured employees back—through transitional work or job modification—too soon, in an attempt to reduce their workers’ comp exposure. The same is true of job modification scenarios. If you believe you were pressured to return to work before you were ready, and you have been injured as a result, a MA workers’ comp attorney can help you recover damages.

There are typically three parties involved with job modification and transitional work arrangements—the employee, the physician, and the employer. When all three parties are in agreement that the employee should return to work in a modified or transitional capacity, and all requirements are adhered to, these arrangements typically benefit everyone involved. There are instances, however, in which the employer believes that the employee is “milking” the situation, and that the physician is “going along with it.” In such cases, the employer may pressure the employee to return to work before he/she is ready. Continue reading

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), lifting heavy objects is a top cause of workplace injuries in the United States. In fact, more than one-third of injuries resulting in lost work days involve a back or shoulder injury due to heavy lifting. The most common factors cited in back injuries are overexertion and cumulative trauma.

Fortunately, by following smart lifting practices at all times, you can dramatically reduce your risk of injury, including back sprains and strains, pulled muscles, wrist and elbow injuries, and injuries to the neck, shoulders, and spine. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

How to Reduce/Eliminate Common Hazards

Anytime you must lift an object or load heavier than 50 pounds, you are at an increased risk of back injury. Certain loads, such as bundles of wire or conduit, and heavy machinery, place an unsafe amount of stress on the vertebrae and muscles of the back. To reduce or eliminate these hazards, consider the following solutions:

  • Always use pallet jacks and hand trucks to move heavy objects or loads.
  • Never roll spools. They are nearly impossible to stop once in motion.
  • Use forklifts or other mechanical lifting methods whenever possible to lift heavy objects, such as transformers, conduit, and machinery.
  • Use suction tools to lift heavy objects with flat surfaces.
  • When lifting equipment into trucks, use lift gates or ramps.
  • If you must manually lift an item, always use smart lifting practices. Place the object level with your “power zone” (between mid-thigh and mid-chest) prior to lifting. Keep your spine straight and bend at the knees.
  • If possible, request that suppliers break down loads into smaller quantities (off-site) prior to delivery.
  • Try to limit manual lifting weight to 50 pounds or less. When heavier loads must be lifted manually, request the help of at least one additional worker. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a workplace lifting accident.

Avoid Improper or Awkward Postures

Bending and reaching while lifting also increases the weight of the load on your back. As a result, the stress on the muscles, shoulders, and lower spine can lead to serious injury. This is even true of lighter objects. Other awkward postures, such as carrying a load unevenly on one shoulder or under one arm, can also lead to injury. To avoid injuries from awkward or improper postures, follow the tips below:

  • Hold objects close to your body when lifting.
  • Use your leg muscles to help lift an object from a low level.
  • Store objects that require manual lifting at “power zone” level.
  • Never twist your torso while lifting. Move your feet instead.

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The BLS recently released a workplace deaths report revealing shocking results; fatal workplace injuries and illnesses increased by seven percent from 2015 to 2016. In fact, the 5,190 workers who were killed in work-related accidents last year accounted for the highest rate of workplace deaths since 2008. With the efforts of OSHA, and countless workplace safety campaigns popping up nationwide each year, this substantial increase is sobering.

According to the BLS, traffic incidents were the number one cause of workplace deaths, accounting for about 40 percent of all fatal work accidents. The other top causes were violence (including suicides and homicides) at 17 percent, falls at 16 percent, contact with objects and equipment at 15 percent, and exposure to harmful substances at 10 percent. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Deadliest Industries

Not surprisingly, construction and industrial workplaces ranked highest for on-the-job fatalities. The breakdown of the most deaths by industry for 2016 is as follows:

  • Construction
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture (forestry, fishing, and hunting)
  • Government
  • Waste management
  • Manufacturing
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Mining
  • Oil and gas extraction

Jobs with Most Fatalities

According to the BLS report, logging may be the nation’s deadliest occupation. For every 100,000 workers, there are more than 135 fatalities. The other deadly jobs include:

  • Fishers
  • Pilots
  • Roofers
  • Garbage collectors
  • Steel workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Farmers

Any job can be hazardous, but the jobs above pose an increased risk of serious injury or death. A MA work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

How to Stay Safe at Work

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the most common work hazards include:

  • Working at high levels
  • Chemical exposure
  • Electrical hazards
  • Forklifts
  • Lockout / tagout
  • Confined spaces

Although the above hazards cannot be altogether eliminated from certain jobs, the risk to workers can be dramatically reduced when employees are provided with proper safety equipment and training. Continue reading

February 4 through 10 was National Burn Awareness Week, during which the American Burn Association encouraged the public to think about burn dangers in the home and workplace. Although more than 96 percent of burn injuries are non-fatal, many victims suffer debilitating medical complications and severe scarring that can affect them physically and emotionally for a lifetime.

In the Workplace

Thousands of workers suffer burn injuries annually in the United States. The three most common types of workplace burn injuries are thermal (heat), electrical, and chemical. Reduce the risk of these injuries by following the tips below:

  • If you are working with flammable or combustible materials, keep them away from open flames and sparks.
  • Employees working with flammable or combustible materials, or near open flames, should wear flame-resistant clothing.
  • Do not touch equipment until you are certain it is not hot.
  • If a worker suffers a thermal burn injury, move him or her to a safe place. If clothing is on fire, help the person to stop, drop and roll until the flames are completely extinguished.
  • If the burn is mild (first-degree), apply cool water to the injury, elevate the body part, and give the person water to drink.
  • If the person has sustained a second-degree burn, do not apply cool water. Simply elevate the body part and give the person water to drink.
  • If the burn is more serious (third-degree), do not apply cool water, do apply a sterile, nonstick dressing to the wound, treat the person for shock, and seek medical attention immediately.
  • To prevent chemical burns, ensure that chemicals are stored and labeled correctly.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear when working with dangerous chemicals.
  • Before beginning a job working with chemicals, make sure that you know the location of a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, and nearest eye wash station.
  • Immediately remove contaminated clothing if you come into contact with dangerous chemicals.
  • To avoid electrical burns and electrocutions, utilize proper Lockout / Tagout procedures at all times.
  • Overhead power lines should be marked.
  • If a worker suffers an electrical burn or injury, turn off the power.
  • Do not touch the injured worker until you are sure the power has been turned off.
  • Check the worker’s airway and breathing, treat for shock, and seek medical attention immediately.

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

Continue reading

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

Causes of Mesothelioma

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

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

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

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

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

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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

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