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Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

A total of 70 people died in work-related accidents in Massachusetts in 2016. That’s a 10 year high for on-the-job fatalities. In South Boston, a worker in a seafood warehouse died from exposure to ammonia fumes. A Braintree worker died from drowning while inspecting a municipal water tank. And a trench collapse killed two construction workers in the South End.

According to a recently released report by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), 62 of the 70 deaths occurred on the job. The remaining deaths were from occupational diseases, such as lung cancer, and all of those were firefighters. All but one of the workers who died were male. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured on the job.

Since 2012, where a total of 32 work-related fatalities occurred in MA, the number of annual deaths has been rising. According to Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the co-executive director for the National Council for Occupational safety and Health, the increase in fatalities is reflective of the increase in subcontractors and workers employed by staffing agencies. Goldstein-Gelb said that these employers are not as invested in overall worker safety.

Latino Workers are Most at Risk

In addition, Goldstein-Gelb believes the increase in work-related deaths is partly due to a decline in labor unions and an increase in undocumented workers, who rarely report unsafe working conditions out of fear of retaliation. The death rate among Latino workers is the highest of any ethnic group, with four out of every 100,000 workers dying on the job annually.

“When workers can’t speak up, then there is a greater risk that a hazard will not be identified and addressed and workers will suffer the consequences,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “The less people speak up, you will see an increase in deaths.”

And the problem isn’t just in Massachusetts. The number of people killed in work-related accidents hit a national seven-year high in 2015, at a total of 4,836 deaths. Deaths from occupational illnesses are estimated to cause a shocking 95,000 deaths in the United States every year. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

MA Company Facing Manslaughter Charges in Worker Deaths

The MassCOSH report listed 12 employers that put workers at an increased risk. Among them was Atlantic Drain Services, which is currently facing manslaughter charges for the deaths of Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, the two workers who drowned in the South End trench collapse last fall. According to the Suffolk district attorney, the company had multiple safety violations prior to this tragedy, and forged documents stating that workers had attended safety training in an attempt to mislead investigators. In response to those deaths, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance requiring the submission of safety records prior to receipt of a work permit. 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.

A 54-year-old heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) worker died Tuesday after he fell 30 to 35 feet from the roof of the Blackstone Valley Cinema De Lux. John B. Folkes of Canton worked for Medford-Wellington Service Co., a heating/ventilation/air conditioning vendor contracted by the cinema.

According to police, the 911 call came in at 12:22 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The caller reported that a man had fallen from the cinema’s roof. When emergency responders arrived to the scene, another worker was performing CPR, but Folkes was unresponsive. Emergency medical services personnel rushed the victim to Mass Memorial Medical Center – University Campus in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead.

Folkes was alone on the roof when the incident occurred. He was working with a four-foot square aluminum heat exchanger at the time. There were no witnesses or video of the 30 to 35-foot fall. State police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the incident. According to police, the fall appears to be an accident and no foul play is suspected.

Work-Related Falls

Same-level falls are more common than falls from high places, but elevated falls are more likely to result in serious injuries and death. The following statistics about elevated falls illustrate how serious this type of accident can be. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine if negligence contributed to your work-related accident.

  • More than 60 percent of elevated falls occur at less than 10 feet.
  • Slips, trips, and falls account for about 15 percent of all work-related accidental deaths.
  • Slips, trips, and falls also account for between 12 and 15 percent of annual workers’ comp costs.
  • Each slip, trip, and fall accident costs employers about $40,000.

According to OSHA, the hazards that most commonly lead to fatal falls from high places are:

  • Unprotected roof edges
  • Roof and floor openings or holes
  • Improper construction of scaffolds
  • Unsafe ladders or improper ladder use

H0w to Prevent Falls

The best way to dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury or death in a work-related fall is through proper safety training and the use of safety equipment. If you are working at heights of six feet or higher, your employer should provide you with the appropriate fall protection equipment, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), and the appropriate ladders and scaffolds for the particular job. Training programs should be required for new workers, and ongoing training should be regularly provided to anyone who is working at heights of six feet or higher. A Boston work injury lawyer can evaluate the details of your case to determine if employer negligence played a role in your injuries.  Continue reading

Criminal charges have been filed against the owner of Atlantic Drain Services, a Hyde Park drain cleaning company, following the October death of two workers. Kevin Otto, the company’s owner, is facing two counts of manslaughter, as well as charges that he misled investigators and concealed records after the trench collapse that killed Kevin Mattocks, 53, and Robert Higgins, 47.

The two Atlantic Services employees were killed when a water main broke, flooding the 15-foot-deep trench they were working in. According to the Boston Fire Department, the trench lacked necessary safety protections, including a trench box. A trench box is a steel or aluminum structure that protects workers in a trench, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), strictly requires trench boxes for trenches deeper than five feet.

According to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, “The evidence has established that the defendants were well aware of this shoring requirement, as well as the grave danger that workers would be exposed to without it, because they’d incurred two separate OSHA violations in the past 10 years for failing to follow it.”

A 51-year-old Stoughton worker was tragically killed on Jan. 24 after an incident at his place of work in Freetown. Alphonse Ferent was working at a distribution center for Stop & Shop when he fell between a loading dock and a tractor trailer that was pulling away from the loading dock.

As the truck pulled away, a forklift that was unloading product from inside the tractor trailer fell out of the back of the truck and onto Ferent, killing him, as reported by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH).

Ferent’s death marks the 21st worker death that resulted from heavy objects falling and crushing the victim since 2007. Nationally, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that there are about 85 fatal accidents involving forklifts every year, and approximately 11 percent of the 855,900 forklifts used across the United States will be involved in some type of work accident.

“Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of Alphonse,” said MassCOSH Interim Executive Director Al Vega. “Here at MassCOSH, we have seen far too many lives lost at loading docks. Until employers recognize the inherent dangers that come with moving goods at distribution centers and take to heart their responsibility to keep their workers safe no matter what, we will continue to senselessly lose men and women on the job.”

Employers are responsible for worker safety

This tragic accident involved many aspects that could have been avoided. Any situation involving a forklift on a moving apparatus such as a tractor trailer should be properly supervised and only performed by trained employees utilizing proper safety protocols. In this case, an investigation will be launched to ascertain why the truck began moving with the forklift still performing work in its cargo-holding area.

OSHA requires that all workplace deaths must be immediately reported and investigated to find out what went wrong and what could be done to prevent any future tragedies. The managers at the distribution center, and Stop & Shop, very well may face citations and penalties for any failures found that resulted in the compromising of their employees’ safety.

Although this event could have been the result of a tragic, ill-timed accident, it nonetheless puts a spotlight on the dire importance of proper safety protocols in areas where heavy machinery are used in close conjunction to employees. The family of the worker who lost his life will never be able to regain what they have lost, but they may be able to file a suit for wrongful death if an investigation shows that his death was preventable. Continue reading

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

Prematurely losing a loved one to an accident at work is a tragedy simply unparalleled. If that person also happened to be the primary breadwinner in a family, the shockwaves extend well beyond the personal turmoil that will follow. In addition to the pain of loss, you must now figure out how to continue to support yourself and the remaining members of your family that depend on you. Although nothing will replace the loss of a loved one, there are certain safety nets set up through the government that are specifically meant to address this horrific ordeal. Through the Social Security system, widowers and children of deceased family members are entitled to certain rights, including monetary compensation to account for lost income. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan for more information.

Here are some of the summarized benefits available through Social Security:

General benefits

  • As you work and pay into Social Security, you earn credits towards post-death benefits. The younger you are when you die, the fewer years you need to have paid into the system. Nobody needs to work for more than 10 years to be eligible for these benefits.
  • If you have only worked for one and a half years, and you die within three years of starting that job, benefits will be available to your spouse and your children.
  • A one-time payment of $255 may be available to the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, a surviving child may be eligible for this payment.

Widows and widowers

  • Any widow or widower may be eligible for full monthly benefits once they reach retirement age. The retirement age for people born in 1945-1956 is 66. People born after 1962 reach retirement age at 67.
  • A widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60
  • If your surviving spouse is disabled, they may receive benefits as early as age 50.
  • If a widow or widower is caring for a child of the deceased under the age of 16, or if the child is of any age and disabled, they may be eligible for monthly benefits.
  • In certain circumstances, a surviving divorced spouse may be eligible for benefits as well.

Children of the deceased

  • An unmarried child of the deceased may be eligible for benefits is they are younger than 18 (and up to age 19 if they attend school full-time)
  • A child of the deceased may receive monthly benefits if they are age 18 or older and have a disability that was diagnosed before they turn 22.
  • In certain cases, a stepchild, grandchild, stepgrandchild or adopted child may be eligible for benefits.

Continue reading

Stavis Seafood received 20 safety violations Friday, several months after the death of one of its workers. Brian Caron, a Peabody man and father of two, was fatally injured by an ammonia leak at Stavis’ South Boston plant. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the accident was caused by improper design, operation and maintenance of ammonia equipment. Due to these safety violations, Caron and other employees were exposed to a deadly amount of ammonia.

The fatal accident occurred on March 23 when a pipe on the plant’s second floor burst, sending toxic fumes into the work area. According to a statement released by OSHA, the seafood company failed to properly label ammonia piping, properly ventilate the building to prevent the risk of explosion caused by an ammonia leak, routinely inspect pressure canisters, test ammonia sensors, and ensure that ammonia was properly contained at all times. If you are concerned that your work environment is unsafe, contact a Massachusetts work injury lawyer today.

Stavis Seafood Facing $173,168 in Fines

The OSHA investigation has found that the machine room where workers were stationed and the storage room used to store ammonia were not properly separated. In addition to the lack of a door to separate the two rooms, there were also large holes in the plant’s floor. “The company’s failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency,” reported James Mulligan, OSHA’s acting area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. “It’s clear that Stavis Seafoods must take effective action to correct these hazards and prevent their recurrence so that no other employees are harmed on the job.” And the violations don’t stop there. Stavis was also cited for improper chemical storage and labeling, multiple electrical hazards, and infrastructure issues. As a result, Stavis is facing OSHA-proposed fines of up to $173,168.

Types of Chemical Exposure and Associated Injuries

Chemical-related work injuries can be extremely harmful, even deadly. Ammonia isn’t the only dangerous workplace chemical. Others include benzene, mercury, pesticides, solvents, lead, acids, and paint. Injuries can be suffered due to contact with the skin, inhalation of toxic fumes, and even accidental ingestion. Injuries due to work-related chemical exposure include burns to the skin, eyes, lung or throat, and rashes. Chemical exposure can also cause neurological damage, including nerve damage and brain injuries. Although excessive inhalation is most often linked to brain damage, even skin exposure can have neurological consequences. If you have been harmed on-the-job due to the inhalation of toxic fumes, contact a MA injury lawyer today. Continue reading

Numbers from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) showed that in 2014, more American workers died on the job than any year since 2008. The census showed 4,821 workers died in 2014, which equates to 13 worker deaths every day in America at a rate of about 3.4 per every 100,000 workers.  The most deadly job is construction, which resulted in 899 deaths in 2014, a nine percent increase over its 2013 totals. Oil and gas extraction jobs were also particularly deadly, with 144 deaths. Private mining and quarrying resulted in 39 more. One of the most common causes of workplace death were falls, slips and trips, which caused 818 deaths.

In general, the most common cause of death for workers in 2014 was vehicular accidents, which accounted for 1,157 deaths, marking a five percent increase over last year. Other leading factors were workplace violence incidents, which encompasses person-on-person violence, animal attacks and homicides. These incidents combined accounted for 765 deaths.  Deaths affected workers aged 55 and older disproportionately higher than any other group of people at 1,691 deaths (35% of all deaths). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 million Americans aged 55 and older were employed in 2015 and 1.3 million more were seeking employment. It is estimated that by 2019, 25% of the U.S. labor force will be 55 or older.

Work-related illnesses and injuries to are estimated at anywhere between 3.8 and 11.4 million each year, a stat that is hard to confirm due to underreporting. The AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 workers unions, estimated that 50,000 people died in 2014 from occupational diseases. The AFL-CIO also estimated that between $250 to $370 billion is lost every year due to workplace illnesses and injury.

Pros and cons of OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a federal agency given authority under the United States Department of Labor to ensure safe working environment and best practices. They were established as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, signed into law by Richard Nixon.  Although the regulatory oversight of OSHA has undoubtedly raised the bar in terms of what employers must do to guarantee the health of their employees, limitations always exist when dealing with a scope as large as the entire United States.

One main criticisms of OSHA is that they are stretched far too thin to effectively regulate the country’s entire workforce. According to the AFL-CIO, OSHA only has 1,840 inspectors (1,035 working for state branches and 805 federal inspectors) to oversee about 8 million workplaces, equating to a rate of about one inspector for every 74,760 workers.  Another main criticism is that OSHA does not possess the power to hand down meaningful fines to companies that violate the law. The AFL-CIO reports that the median federal fine for killing a worker was just $7,000 and the median state fine for killing a worker was just $3,500. They also report that OSHA has only criminally prosecuted 89 worker death cases since 1970.  Continue reading

In April, events across Massachusetts paid tribute to the 63 MA workers killed on-the-job in 2015. In addition to honoring the victims and their families, ‘Workers’ Memorial Day’ also served to highlight worker safety in general. According to Jeff Newton, membership and communications coordinator for the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), “Sixty-three workers in the State of Massachusetts lost their lives to dangerous jobs last year.” Newton went on to say, “One thing we want to make the public aware of is that dangerous jobs are still claiming far too many workers in the state.” Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

Dying for Work in Massachusetts

MassCOSH recently released a report titled “Dying for Work in Massachusetts” that calls attention to the problems surrounding worker safety. The report details the ways in which workers were killed, and it addresses increasing safety concerns for immigrant workers specifically. According to the report, immigrant workers have a significantly higher risk of being fatally injured in a work-related accident.

Workers’ Memorial Day

Every April, Workers’ Memorial Day celebrates the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. At the main event at the State House in Boston, and supporting events in Springfield and Northampton, speakers educate and inform the public about workplace safety. “And what we will be doing is reading the names of the workers killed aloud, and we will be having labor leaders speak as well as having family members who lost a loved one speak as to why workplace safety needs to be a higher public priority,” Newton said.

20% of Nationwide Worker Deaths are Construction Related

More than 4,600 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2014, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Of those deaths, about 20% occurred in the construction industry, one of the most dangerous industries in the country. Although construction jobs are inherently dangerous, the risk of serious injury and death can be dramatically reduced when employers follow safety precautions, provide adequate training and supervision to workers, and perform routine maintenance and inspections on all equipment. In addition, workers should always be provided with proper safety gear, such as harnesses, safety goggles, hard hats, and any other equipment necessary for the specific job. Continue reading

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