A 17-year-old student, part of a work crew shoveling snow off of a department store roof, was injured after falling through a skylight.
Officials say the teen was helping to remove snow at Frugal Fannie’s clothing store in Westwood yesterday morning when he fell. Witnesses say he fell nearly 25 feet; his fall was broken by one of the store’s clothing racks. However the extent of the young man’s injuries remains unclear. The teen was flown to an area hospital by helicopter.
This unfortunate story is one of many that we’ve heard in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast as our region continues to be blasted with heavy snowfall. Last week, two people in Canton were fatally injured due to roof falls and two horses died when the barn they were kept in collapsed.
According to The Patch, MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency), there have been more than 130 reports of roof collapses in just two weeks in the state. Many of the injuries sustained were directly from roofs collapsing under weight of snow, or people falling while attempting to remove snow from their roofs.
In response to the drastic number of injuries and falls, OSHA is urging workers to take serious precautions. Being aware of where skylights and aerial lifts are located on the roof you’re working on is a first, crucial step workers should take before beginning their work.
Tips to Prevent Snow Falls:
(OSHA & WTNH)
• Use snow removal methods that do not involve workers going on roofs, when and where possible; use a tall roof rake that can be maneuvered from the ground if possible.
• Evaluate loads exerted on roof or structure (e.g., total weight of snow, workers and equipment used), compared to the load limit of the roofs. To put things into perspective: 1 cubic foot of snow can weigh up to 62.4 lbs., according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Patch.com)
• Requiring that workers use fall protection equipment such as safety harnesses and helmets.
• Ensure that workers are able to use ladders and aerial lifts safely. Placing ladders on a sturdy, level ground is a must!
Before snow starts to accumulate, OSHA says it is important to think about what will be needed to safely remove snow from roofs or other elevated surfaces.
• Can snow be removed without workers going onto the roof?
• Are there any hazards on the roof that might become hidden by the snow and need to be marked so that workers can see them (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc.)?
• How should the snow be removed, based on the building’s layout, to prevent unbalanced loading?
• What are the maximum load limits of the roof and how do they compare with the estimated total weight of snow, snow-removal equipment, and workers on the roof?
• What tools, equipment, protective devices, clothing and footwear will workers need?
• What type of fall protection will be used to protect workers on roofs and other elevated surfaces?
• What training will workers need to work safely?
• How will mechanized snow removal equipment be safely elevated to the roof?
Workplace falls account for a majority of construction-related deaths (20%), and with the snowfall accumulating at astronomical rates workers on roofs face an even greater risk for being injured on the job.
By OSHA standards, employers are responsible for making sure their employees work in a safe and hazard-free environment and have the proper training and tools to do their job safely as well as identify any dangerous threats to themselves and their co-workers. This means, identifying risks ahead of time to prevent such fatal injuries like those that occurred in Canton, do not happen.
When an individual is injured or killed while on the job, by law the employer must report the incident to OSHA for a complete investigation. Additionally in Massachusetts, when a worker suffers a workplace injury, he or she and his or her family is supposed to be covered by Workers’ Compensation Benefits. While no amount of money can ever erase the pain and suffering of a workplace injury or loss of a loved one, these benefits ensure that a worker and his or her family is compensated for medical bills, disability payments and lost wages, as well as compensated for permanent injuries, disfigurement and scars, or in some cases, expenses related to death.
Acquiring all of these benefits can sometimes be challenging, and it is advised that you speak to a licensed Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney to discuss your options after you have been involved in a workplace incident. At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys has nearly five decades of experience handling workers’ compensation and work injury cases.
If you or a loved one was injured while at work due to unsafe conditions, call our office today to speak to one of our knowledgeable attorneys to discuss your options and what legal avenue is right for you. All initial consultations are completely free and confidential, and our team is available around the clock to answer any and all questions you might have about a Workers’ Compensation case.