Articles Posted in Work Injury

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Our personal injury attorneys in Massachusetts know independent contractors who are injured on the job are typically not covered by workers’ compensation insurance and may be required to file a civil lawsuit.

1095707_fire__fire_4.jpgJentz v. Conagra Foods, Inc., a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, involved a grain bin that exploded in 2010, injuring three workers. The jury, after trial that lasted more than two weeks, awarded plaintiffs $180 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The defendant who owned the grain bin argued that liability should rest with a company hired to fix problems with the bin before the explosion occurred.

The appellate court noted that explosions are a constant danger in grain storage bins. Grain bins produce combustible dust and carbon monoxide that can explosively oxidize to carbon dioxide when a heat source is introduced. Decaying grain can give off enough heat to start the explosive reaction.

Prior to the explosion, company employees noticed a burning smell coming from a bin containing wheat pellets. The company hired defendant, who specialized in fixing “hot bins” at grain storage facilities. The work did not begin immediately because the grain bin owner was trying to get the company to work at a lower rate and started contacting competitors.
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The job of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to protect workers from dangers or hazards in the workplace. OSHA establishes many different guidelines, rules and requirements for employers in order to ensure that workers are as protected as possible. Unfortunately, OSHA cannot protect workers against nature. As such, winter creates many workplace hazards for workers’ across a variety of industries.1329065_winter_landscape.jpg

Our Boston injury attorneys want to ensure that workers’ and employers are aware of the areas where there is added risk in the wintertime. This is especially important for those who work on construction sites. The vast majority of construction, whether for public projects, roads and streets, residential buildings or commercial buildings, tends to take place outdoors. This means that construction workers’ may be impacted more than most by cold weather and winter snow, sleet or ice.

Winter Dangers That Affect Construction Workers
OSHA has outlined a number of potential winter risks faced by workers. While driving a vehicle is one of the key dangers on OSHA’s list, there are also some other potential workplace dangers that OSHA has identified that are likely to hit construction workers’ hard. For example, some of the potential risks that arise for construction workers in winter include:

  • Driving accidents on dangerous or slippery roads. These accidents could happen when you are driving a construction vehicle, which could pose an especially great risk due to the size and weight of many of the machines used for construction
  • Exhaustion from strenuous activity such as shoveling snow. You may need to clear a jobsite before you begin construction work, forcing you to pick up a snow shovel. Overexertion from using a snow shovel could put you in danger of a heart attack, muscle strain or other injuries.
  • Back injuries or heart attacks as a result of snow removal efforts.
  • Electrocution as a result of power lines that have fallen. Since a great deal of construction work takes place along streets or in well-populated commercial areas, there may be a high concentration of power lines on construction sites that could fall on or near workers.
  • Roof collapses due to the weight of snow. Since construction sites may be unfinished buildings or older buildings with roofs that aren’t up to code, this is a very real concern for Boston construction workers during winter.
  • Hypothermia and frostbite. Both of these problems can occur as a result of exposure to extreme cold for too long. Unfortunately, construction workers may be performing a great deal of their work outdoors or in unheated structures that haven’t yet been completed and that provide little protection from cold temperatures. Construction workers, therefore, can suffer from either hypothermia or frostbite as a result of being on cold construction sites.

These are just a few of the many potential winter hazards that construction workers face on the job. If an employee does suffer an injury from these or other winter workplace hazards, the employee may qualify for a workers’ compensation claim or may be able to identify a responsible defendant to sue for the injuries sustained.
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In early December, Boston.com wrote of a deadly tunnel collapse outside Tokyo. The collapse resulted in nine deaths and led to calls to spend more money on the aging infrastructure in Japan.

While this accident was a world away, it is a clear and tragic illustration of the devastating consequences of the failure to maintain bridges, tunnels, buildings and other essential infrastructure of cities and towns. Unfortunately, in America, our infrastructure is aging too and our Boston injury attorneys are concerned that individuals could be in danger if a collapse occurs. Construction workers are needed to do repairs on failing infrastructure and aging buildings, but could also be at risk when working on failing structures. 1397617_bridge.jpg

Construction Site Risks
With more bridges, tunnels, roads and buildings in need of repair as America ages, more construction work will become necessary in the coming years. Unfortunately, working with aging buildings and structures comes at great risk for construction workers. Those in the construction industry may be asked to tackle tough jobs at dilapidated structures and could be at risk of:

  • Crushing injuries due to falling bridges, ceilings, tunnels and other structures.
  • Fall injuries, including falls to a lower level if aging floors in buildings cave in.
  • Scaffolding injuries when performing work on bridges or on tall buildings and skyscrapers throughout the United States
  • Gas explosions due to aging pipelines. According to Pipeline Safety Awareness, pipelines stretch across 2.6 million miles in the United States and more than 50 percent of the pipelines were constructed during the 1950s and the 1960s. Construction workers can be injured both when called upon to repair aging pipelines and when performing other construction work on the aging infrastructure that disturbs a gas or other pipeline.

Of course, injuries can happen on any construction site. However, the potential risks to construction workers are exacerbated when construction workers are doing work on old and failing infrastructure. The added danger comes not just from the fact that the buildings or structures might collapse or fall, but also from the fact that work done in the past (such as electrical work) may have been done to different safety codes and standards than those used today.

Staying Safe on Construction Sites
Those performing work on repairing the aging infrastructure in the United States need to be aware of the added risks of working on old structures, old buildings, old bridges and old tunnels. Employers need to account for any and all potential risks to their employees and those actually performing the work need to be on the lookout for dangerous situations that could put them at risk.

In most cases, if a construction accident occurs, the employer will be held responsible and the worker will be compensated through a workers’ compensation claim. For some construction injuries, however, a third party is responsible (such as a project manager) and the construction worker will be able to file a personal injury cause of action to recover more compensation than could be obtained in a workers’ compensation claim.
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According to Richard A. Davie, CEO and Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), officials recently broke ground on the Anderson Memorial Bridge to help to make the necessary improvements connecting Cambridge and Boston via the Charles River.

The restoration project on the bridge is costing the city nearly $20 million and it is being funded through the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP). The bridge helps to get North Harvard Street across the Charles River. The project will be done in 4 phases and is expected to be done by the fall of 2014. Until then, drivers and water travelers are urged to be cautious in these areas. Construction work brings about an increase in the risks for accidents in Boston.
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“The rehabilitation of this important bridge reflects our Administration’s commitment to investing in infrastructure improvements in cities and towns across the Commonwealth,” Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray said.

Our Boston personal injury lawyers understand that the bridge is nearly 450 feet in length and is a three-span structure, meaning there’s a lot of work to be done. While construction teams are working on the bridge, they will always keep two arches open so that water travelers can continue their travels down the Charles River. Land travelers don’t have to worry either. They’ll be able to get by too, but only with one lane open in each direction. Traffic will be directed through barrels and striping so you’ve got to be careful! Risks of boat, car, bicycle and pedestrians accidents are significantly increased in construction areas. If you can, you’re urged to avoid this area altogether. If you have to use the bridge, make sure that you do so carefully and be sure to allow yourself plenty of time for traffic and congestion.

According to transportation officials, this bridge and the reconstruction is benefiting everyone. Not only will it last for decades, but it will also provide better and safer accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. Frank DePaola with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) says that these kinds of improvements will help to make sure that everyone has an easier and safer way to get around.

There is nearly $500 million in ABP funds to help to improve seven of the bridges that make their way across the Charles River. The Anderson Memorial Bridge serves as the third bridge to get a makeover. The Craigie Drawbridge and the Craigie Dam Bridge have already gotten their turn.

The Anderson Memorial Bridge was built back in 1951 and was named after the builder’s father.

Drivers are asked to be cautions when driving through construction areas. Be on the lookout for other vehicles and for roadside workers. Accidents are likely when travelers are not paying attention. Keep it slow and keep your full attention on your surroundings.
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The National Safety Council uses the entire month of June to focus on a number of preventable injuries. This week, the Council focuses on slips, trips and falls.

Fall accidents in Massachusetts are one of the leading causes of these unintentional injuries. These accidents accounted for nearly 9 million visits to emergency rooms nationwide. Adults 55 and older are most likely to become a victim of one of these falls, while residents 65 and older are four times more likely to die from of a fall than people in any other age group.
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Our Boston personal injury attorneys understand the severe consequences of these fall accidents at home or elsewhere. For this reason, safety precautions should be taken to avoid these incidents. Falls can result in serious injuries that can hinder an adult’s ability to lead an active and independent lifestyle. Property owners and businesses are required, by law, to make sure that their grounds are safe for everyone. Failure to eliminate potential hazards can result in legal repercussions.

In 2000 alone, falls for older adults cost the U.S. health care system more than $19 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the population continues to age, both the number of serious falls and the costs of treatment for these fall injuries will more than likely increase. These direct costs are what insurance companies and patients dish out for treating injuries caused by falls. The costs often include nursing home care, hospital fees, rehabilitation, the use of medical equipment, community-based services, changes made to the home, prescription drugs and insurance processing. Of the more than $19 billion, nearly $2 million went toward fatal falls, while $19 billion went to nonfatal falls. Fall-related injuries are one of the most expensive treated injuries among community-dwelling older adults.

In 2001, more than 18,000 adults died of injuries from unintentional falls.

About 30 percent of people who fall end up suffering from lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas. Falls are the number one cause of traumatic brain injury. In 2000 alone, traumatic brain injury accounted for nearly 50 percent of all fatal falls among older adults.

How to help prevent falls:

-Make sure to exercise regularly. Be sure that when you exercise, you’re focusing on increasing balance and leg strength.

-Have your eyes checked at least once a year. Make sure that your prescription is up to date.

-Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medications. Does taking any of them together produce dizziness of drowsiness?

-Make your house a little bit safer by increasing the lighting, adding railings or grab bars and reducing tripping hazards.
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupation Safety and Health Administration will be conducting a national outreach initiative in an attempt to help to educate workers and employers about the hazards of outdoor work. Proper precautionary steps need to be taken by those working outdoors in an effort to reduce the risks of heat-related illnesses and other work injuries in Boston and elsewhere.

1170137_street_works.jpg“If you’re working outdoors, you’re at risk for heat-related illnesses that can cause serious medical problems and even death,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “But heat illness can be prevented. This Labor Department campaign will reach across the country with a very simple message – water, rest and shade.”

Our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers understand that working conditions can vary tremendously for outdoor workers. It is recommended that such workers educate themselves about proper measures to protect their health in all working conditions, especially during the hotter months.

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Roughly 150 workers have been killed, and nearly 1,000 injured, in combustible dust explosions since 1980, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In attempt to better understand combustible dust explosions and to find ways to prevent such incidents OSHA invited outside experts to participate in a Combustible Dust Expert Forum later this month. OSHA is looking to gather experts’ views and perspectives on possible regulatory options for addressing the safety issues of combustible dust hazards.

The Combustible Dust Expert Forum will include discussions targeting regulatory options that can help to minimize the costs to small- and medium-sized businesses of reducing or preventing combustible dust hazards. Representatives from various industries, academia, research groups, insurance-underwriter organizations, labor, and government will comprise expert representation at the Forum.
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Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys understand the importance of identifying the cause of these problems in effort to determine safe solutions to help protect workers. All safety measures should be taken by employers and employees to help keep the workplace safe for all.

The National Emphasis Program in 2007 was one of OSHA’s earlier efforts to address various combustible dust hazards. They conducted various targeted inspections that took a look at various workplaces that created or handled combustible dust. Results from these inspections illustrated that facilities had an alarmingly high number of general duty clause violations. These findings indicated a strong need for to create a combustible dust standard. This resulted in the publication of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2009. With even more efforts, OSHA conducted six stakeholders meetings and a Web chat to discuss combustible dust in attempt to expand the opportunity for public and stakeholder participation.

Combustible materials, and sometimes even materials that are normally considered noncombustible, can burn rapidly when they’re in a finely divided form. If these types of dusts are suspended in air in the right concentration, the result can be an explosion. The force from these explosions can lead to worker deaths, injuries, and even the destruction of entire buildings.

Combustible dusts can include:

-Various fine particles.

-Chips.

-Fibers.

-Chunks or flakes that can potentially cause implosion of fire when suspended in air.

These various forms of combustible dusts can be made of metal, plastic, wood, sugar, flour, coal, rubber or paper. OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page on combustible dust offers more details information about this dangerous hazard.

The Combustible Dust Expert Forum will be May 13, 2010 at the Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. at 9 p.m.
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A new and updated rule, created to protect the safety and health of shipyard workers, has recently been put into effect by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The rule has recently been published in the Federal Register and takes the place of an existing rule. It is now more compatible with the recent advances in shipyard industry practices and technology. It provides new protections from hazards that previously the rule did not address. It now includes details pertaining to the control of hazardous energy. The new rule is expected to prevent nearly 400 serious work inures in Boston and elsewhere in the United States.

“This final rule is the result of collaboration between OSHA and the maritime industry,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “Shipyard work is dangerous, and we believe we have crafted a rule that protects workers while balancing employer concerns regarding implementation.”
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Our Boston personal workers’ compensation attorneys know the dangers inherent in working in shipyards. It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that working conditions meet all safety requirements and regulations in effort to help keep all employees safe on the job.

The final rule will address fourteen workplace safety and health categories. This will update and clarify provisions in current shipyard employment standards that had virtually gone untouched or changed since 1972, when OSHA adopted the initial rule. The new rules include the creating and enforce minimum lighting on certain work sites, assisting employees at the end of their work shifts and at the end of job tasks when working alone. The rule will also add new uniform criteria to be sure that shipyards have an adequate number of properly trained first-aid providers.

OSHA will also be adding new provisions to help control hazardous energy and to increase vehicle safety. Before the establishment of this final rule, the maritime industry had no specific standards that addressed the control of hazardous energy.

According to data from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, transportation accidents make up nearly 20 percent of all shipyard deaths. The new rule’s provisions aim to significantly reduce these incidents as they will now require everyone use of seat belts while operating a motor vehicle in a shipyard.

A full copy of OSHA’s new rule can be found on their web page designated to the updates. Employees and employers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new regulations and abide by them on shipyards.
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A photography contest, conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), urges residents to capture a creative snapshot of workplace safety and health, according to a U.S. Department of Labor press release. The contest, titled “Picture It!”, aims to strike up awareness of the importance of a safe working environment to help prevent a work accident in Boston and elsewhere in the United States.
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Our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers would like too remind employees, and employers, that a safe working environment should be kept and maintained at all times. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that employees are safe and protected from danger and injury while on the job. Our lawyers continue to work tirelessly to recognize and fight for the rights of employees who may have been injured on the job.

OSHA is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, which they will continue to celebrate throughout the entire year. Picture It! is kicking off the celebration and is open to those 18 and older. The contest will be accepting submissions through August 12.

Residents are encouraged to invite their friends and family to participate in the fun and creative event. You can download the contest flyer from the OSHA website to help share the details.

Photographers are asked to share their visions of workplace safety and health, and they may do so in any way they choose. Photos must be taken in the United States. Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners. Photographers are asked to use their artistic skills to successfully portray occupational safety and health in such a way that would help to raise interest in the general public.

Submissions will be judged by accomplished photography professionals. They will be judged on the quality of the photograph, their compatibility with OSHA publications, clarity of the conveyed message, creativity and originality. Photos must include workers, employers or workplace imagery.

Photographs submitted by the judged winners and finalists will be posted on the OSHA photo contest web site. First-place will receive a framed letter of congratulations from Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. The three winning photos will be displayed in OSHA’s national office in Washington. The organization hopes that the participation and display of these winning photos will serve as a daily reminder for leading policymakers and prominent professionals of the purpose and drive behind OSHA’s mission.

OSHA contractors and special government employees are encouraged to participate as well. On-site consultation employees and federal OSHA, “state plan” state OSHA employees are not eligible. They will be asked to participate in a separate and internal contest that will be running during the same time as the public contest.

A complete list of contest rules and regulations and instructions on how to submit your photo can be found on OSHA’s website.
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Thursday, April 28th is Workers Memorial Day, a day established to recognize workers who were injured or who died on the job. Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers understand the risks: every day an average of 1.2 workers died at their jobs each week in 2009.
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Employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe work environment and comply with certain federal regulations in order to keep employees out of danger and free from Massachusetts work illnesses and injuries suffered on the job.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 16 workers die each day from injuries sustained at work in the United States. Over 11,000 private-sector workers suffer a nonfatal work-related illness or injury each day, which causes more than half of them to either be transferred to another job, or requires them to be on restricted duty or a leave of absence from the job they currently hold. It is estimated that 200 of the 9,000 workers treated in emergency rooms each day are admitted because of a severe injury or illness suffered at work.

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 62 people were killed on the job in 2009. Another estimated 520 Massachusetts employees died in 2009 from occupational disease. The construction industry remains at the top in lives lost on the job. Firefighters and fisherman also had a high number of deaths on the job in 2009. The leading causes of fatal injuries on the job are transportation-related, falls, commercial fishing, workplace violence, and incidents involving the employee being crushed by something at work.

Families who lost a loved one at work in 2010 are encouraged to attend the Workers Memorial Day event hosted by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health and the Greater Boston Labor Council. The event will be held at the State House Stairs on Beacon Street on Thursday, April 28th, 2011 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. A reading of lost workers’ names will kick off the event followed by featured speakers which include safety experts, state officials and family members of those who lost their life on the job in 2010.

Remembering your loved one is an important step but more importantly so is having a voice. Loved ones need to speak up to legislators about state safety and health-related issues in legislation. For more information about workplace fatalities, go to to view the full report called ‘Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts’.
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