August 2011 Archives

Effects of Hurricane Irene Increase Risks for Personal Injury in Boston for Cleanup Crews

August 29, 2011

Residents of Puerto Rico are working on recovering from some of the damage that was recently caused by Hurricane Irene. Areas of Massachusetts also experienced flooding or other damage.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking time to ask that all workers and residents be safe when they're cleaning up the mess left behind by the storm. Storm clean up efforts can potentially result in personal injury in Boston and other areas that were affected by Irene.
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"Recovery work should not put you in the hospital," said José A. Carpena, federal OSHA's Puerto Rico area director.

Our Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneys understand that storm recovery efforts involve a number dangers and hazards. These conditions can be minimized with the proper safety knowledge, a safe plan and adequate personal protection. Everyone is urged to be safe when picking up the pieces after Irene has come and gone to avoid any injuries.

Hurricane cleanup efforts can involve:

-Restoring electricity.

-Demolition projects.

-Accessing flooded areas.

-Aerial lifts.

-Water and sewer services,

-Removing floodwater from various area.

-Trimming trees.

-Repair efforts of roads, buildings, bridges, levees and dams.

-Crane operations.

-Emergency response assistance.

-Hazardous waste operations.

Residents and workers can be injured a number of ways through cleanup efforts. Some of the possible risks include:

-Exposure to contaminated food or water.

-Heat stress.

-Carbon monoxide exposure.

-Contact with falling tree limbs around tree trimming efforts.

-Electrical-related injuries from generators and other electric items.

-Entrapment in unprotected excavations or small, confined areas.

-Being caught in fast moving water.

-Downed electrical wires.

Environmental Health and Safety offers these safety tips for residents and workers who will be working together to clean our area up after Hurricane Irene:

-Make sure that all workers have proper protective gear, such as safety glasses, steel-toed boots, hard hats and work gloves.

-All cleanup efforts should be planned with the community and thoroughly shared with all participating parties.

-Keep an eye out for snakes and other reptiles that may linger in flood waters.

-Make sure that all electrical and gas utilities are shut off by emergency service personnel. before you begin repair work.

-Make sure that all workers have clean and portable water.

-Beware of standing water. This storm flood water can contain animal and human waste. It can also be contaminated with petroleum products and various agricultural and industrial chemicals.

-Encourage that all workers practice good hygiene. Workers should be asked to wash thoroughly before handling food and at the end of their work shift. Workers should be offered disinfectant for personal cleaning purposes.

-Require that all workers operating chain saws and other loud equipment wear hearing protection.

-Be careful when walking into or standing in flood waters. Traveling water can be dangerous, even for experienced swimmers. Standing water is dangerous as workers traveling through it may not be able to see holes or other tripping hazards.

Continue reading "Effects of Hurricane Irene Increase Risks for Personal Injury in Boston for Cleanup Crews" »

OSHA Releases New App to Help Prevent Heat-Related Work Injuries in Massachusetts and Elsewhere

August 28, 2011

Heat is still a major contributor to work injuries in Massachusetts. Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a new downloadable, mobile device application that lets employees and employers monitor the current weather conditions, more specifically the head index, at a number of local work sites. This way, workers will be able to better prepare themselves for the effects of the day's heat.

"Summer heat presents a serious issue that affects some of the most vulnerable workers in our country, and education is crucial to keeping them safe," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.
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Our Boston workers' compensation attorneys encourage all workers and employers to take advantage of this new mobile application as it is a very useful tool in preventing these types of job-related injuries and illnesses.

The application comes in both English and Spanish and offers heat index information from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The application also offers a number of safety precautions that workers should take to prevent heat-related injuries in there specific area. Employers are offered helpful information that will help them get their workers acclimated to the weather conditions as well.

The app is designed for the iPhone, certain versions of the BlackBerry and for users of the Android operating system. The application is available for download.

In 2009, it was estimated that more than 30 workers died as a result of heat stroke. Every year, thousands more are injured from heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. Those who work outdoors, including farmworkers, landscapers, baggage handlers, construction workers, roofers and outdoor air transportation workers have some of the highest rates of heat-related incidents.

Heat-related illness is preventable. Employers are urged to:

-Schedule rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas.

-Provide workers with plenty of water.

-Schedule heavy work as early in the day as possible.

-Properly train workers with knowledge regarding heat and other job dangers.

-Be prepared for any type of medical emergency.

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, says that the Administration's message should be clear. By remembering three words, rest, water, share, we should all be able to help prevent serious injury, if not death, from the hot weather conditions we're facing this summer.

Common signs and symptoms for heat exhaustion include:

-Confusion

-Headache

-Dark-colored urine: The dark color indicates dehydration.

-Muscle cramps

-Dizziness

-Nausea

-Fainting

-Pale skin

-Fatigue

-Rapid heartbeat

If you observe a worker who may be experiencing heat exhaustion and is displaying some of the symptoms listed above, you're urged to quickly move them to a cool place to rest. You should remove extra clothing from their body and put cool cloths on their skin. You should also fan their skin. Your best bet is to give them a cool sports drink that contains salt and sugar. Gatorade is a good drink for those experiencing heat exhaustion. If the victim is unable to follow commands, seems to be unconscious or is vomiting, then you're urged to call 911 immediately!

Continue reading "OSHA Releases New App to Help Prevent Heat-Related Work Injuries in Massachusetts and Elsewhere" »

Company Ordered to Pay Out $615,000 after Ignoring the Federal Railroad Safety Act

August 26, 2011

Union Pacific Railroad Company has recently been ordered by the Department of Labor to pay out more than $615,000 to three of its employees. The payout is a result of an investigation that determined that the company neglected to abide by the wistleblowers protection provisions that have been set forth through the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA).

Investigations revealed that the company let go of two of its employees and suspended a third in an effort to retaliate against them for reporting work conditions that the employees felt were dangerous. One of the employees also attempted to report an injury that had occurred on the job, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
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As we recently reported on our Massachusetts Workers Compensation Lawyers Blog, another railroad was recently ordered to pay out approximately $125,000 to an employee after denying his a promotion in the wake of a reported a work injury. The company denied the employee's claim and proceeded to retaliate.

Our Boston Railroad Safety Act Attorneys understand that the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA) allows workers to sue railroad companies for injuries that occurred on the job and are not being covered by workers' compensation benefits. FELA allows an employee to gain additional compensation above and beyond what is typically rewarded through workers' compensation claims. This act was passed as Congress witnessed an alarmingly high number of worker fatalities that had occurred within the railroad industry.

"Workers have the right to report work-related injuries and safety concerns without fear of retaliation," said Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.

The Union Pacific Railroad Company case began when the company decided to release an employee back in late 2010 after the worker had complained repeatedly to the company about various work-related safety concerns. He reported a number of right-of-way issues, obstructed road signs and trip hazards. He also turned in a supervisor that had reportedly failed to uphold a number or safety precautions. The company included the fact that the employee had a tattoo, saying that the ink on his skin was creating a hostile work environment for everyone. His tattoo recognizes his time spent in the military and was on his skin years before he started working with the company.

The second employee from that company that's receiving some of the compensation was suspended after he made a number of complaints about bumpy spots on the railroad track.

The third employee, of the same company, was let go after he reported an injury that had occurred on the job. All of the workers are being awarded compensation for a number of damages and reimbursement fees for legal representation.

All three of these incidents occurred in 2010 and 2011. Railroad companies are required to abide by the regulations laid out by the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

Continue reading "Company Ordered to Pay Out $615,000 after Ignoring the Federal Railroad Safety Act " »

Teen Summer Jobs Resulting in Increased Risks for Work-Related Injuries in Boston

August 20, 2011

New statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the number of youth in the United States age 16- to 24-year-old that were out of work from April to July of this year rose nearly 2 percent, to about 745,000.

Less than 50 percent of young residents in this age group were employed in July, which is the lowest figure on record since 1948. This is alarming because July is usually the month when we see the highest number of employed individuals in this young age group.
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Because of the high unemployment rate among our young workers, more young job seekers are looking for work in more dangerous fields. A number of workers are facing grueling work conditions just to keep their current job. Many are scared to step up with safety concerns that may help prevent a work injury in Boston just to lay low at work and avoid losing their job.

Our Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneys understand that work is hard to come by. For this reason, more and more adults are seeking jobs that were once held by younger employees. This trend is forcing younger workers to seek more difficult jobs just to earn some extra money during summer break from school.

Recent employment trends reveal that those ages 16- to 23-years-old usually use April through July of each year to look for new jobs. This is when school-aged children seek summer employment and when recent graduates make their break into the job market. Unfortunately, the number of youths looking for jobs grew by more than 11 percent since last year. There were more than 22 million young workers looking for jobs this summer.

As children lower their expectations for jobs and become less and less picky about the positions they hold, parents are urged to keep an eye on their child's employment status and job location to make sure that they're not in harms way and are not at risk for a job-related injury.

Make sure your child's employer is not violating any of the U.S. labor laws:

-Workers ages 14- and 15-years-old: This age group is not allowed to work more than 3 hours a day and more than 18 hours a week during the school year. When school is not in session, members of this age group are allowed to work 8 hours a day and a total of 40 hours a week. Their scheduling is regulated through child labor laws as well. Workers of this age cannot work passed 7:00 p.m. during the school year and no later than 9:00 p.m. during summer break.

-.Workers ages 16- and 17-years-old: Workers in this age group can work as many hours as they wish in an occupation that the Secretary of State has not declared hazardous. They are prohibited from working with dangerous equipment. Equipment that is considered hazardous includes saws, commercial mixers, grinders, meat slicers, power-driven bakery machines, patty forming machines and choppers.

-Workers that are at least 18-years-old: Once an individual turns 18-years-old, they are are no longer covered by child labor laws and can work with the rest of the adult population.

You can visit the Massachusetts State website for more state specific child labor regulations and restrictions.

Continue reading "Teen Summer Jobs Resulting in Increased Risks for Work-Related Injuries in Boston" »

FELA Violations in Massachusetts Cost Metro North Commuter Railroad

August 16, 2011

A recent investigation, conducted by the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), found that the Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. is guilty of discriminating against an employee injured at work. The company is accused of denying him a promotion within the company.
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OSHA aims to help protect employees from work accidents in Massachusetts and elsewhere throughout the United States.

Our Massachusetts railroad work injury attorneys understand that workers are too often discriminated against or retaliated against in the wake of an injury claim or after reporting a work-safety violation. Since the Administration stepped in, the company has been ordered to take action to correct the situation. This action includes granting the employee the promotion and paying approximately $125,000 for various damages, including roughly $12,000 in medical and legal expenses and $5,000 for compensatory damages. It doesn't end there. The company has also been ordered to give him the difference in pay between his current wages and the wages of the promotion -- plus interest. It also have to change their company records to clearly state that that employee's injury was in fact work-related.

Metro North is now required to post notices to employees at every single one of its stations. These notices inform employees about what protections the Federal Railroad Safety Act offers them. They also have to hand out an FRSA informational and fact sheet on the procedures on how to properly report a work-related injury and illness.

"The railroad's blatant disregard for its employees' rights and its refusal to cooperate with our investigation warrant these significant punitive damages, which are the highest ordered to date by OSHA in a FRSA-related discrimination investigation," said OSHA's New England regional administrator in Boston, Mass., Marthe Kent.

The Metro North employee submitted a complaint to OSHA back in October of 2008. His work-related injury was written off as not being work-related in July of 2008. Since the company denied his claim, he had to pay for the necessary medical expenses out of pocket. The company later told him, in November of 2008, that he had not been chosen for the promotion he had applied for. Officials report that the denial was based partly because of the employee's injury record. OSHA concluded that the false classification and the promotional denial all counted as discrimination against that employee.

Continue reading "FELA Violations in Massachusetts Cost Metro North Commuter Railroad" »

Construction Workers Face High-Risk of Potentially Fatal Work Accidents in Massachusetts This Summer

August 12, 2011

Another construction worker lost his life recently and a second worker was injured when a 30-foot wall collapsed at the site of a casino being built at a mall in Baltimore. Both accidents happened in Anne Arundel County, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Rescue workers arrived on scene at the site of the Maryland Live! Casino located near a mall in Hanover last Friday morning. According to police, one worker was pronounced dead on scene and the other worker was taken to Shock Trauma with life-threatening injuries. The accidents are being investigated by Maryland Occupational Safety and Health. This is the second accident at the site this month.
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Construction workers are at a high-risk for injury on constructions sites this summer. Another common injury that is likely to occur if the proper precautionary steps are not taken is a heat-related construction accident in Massachusetts. As we continue to experience record-high heats, workers are warned and asked to keep cool and safe through the remainder of the summer.

Our Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneys understand that these workers face potentially fatal hazards on the job every day. It is the responsibility of their employers to make sure these sites as safe as possible and to take all the precautionary steps available to prevent these injuries. These preventative measures are especially important during the summer season as construction workers are working hours a day in high temperature heats.

The Maryland company is in charge of building a 4,750-machine slots parlor and entertainment complex called Maryland Live! Casino. The casino was expected to open by the end of 2012. A number of legal challenges have delayed the project though, which kicked off earlier this year. It is going to include the casino, restaurants and a live music venue.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the workers and their families," said Megan Slattery, the construction company's spokesperson.

As we've previously discussed on our Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog, heat-related injuries are quite often in the construction injury, especially during the summer in Massachusetts. Workers are asked to keep an eye on one another when laboring under the summer sun.

How to recognize heat stroke of heat exhaustion, according to WebMD:

  • Severe, sometimes disabling, cramps, usually in the hands, calves, or feet.
  • Hard, tense muscles.
  • Often pale with cool, moist skin.
  • Sweating profusely.
  • Muscle cramps or pains.
  • Feeling faint or dizzy.
  • Headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea.
  • Core (rectal) temperature higher than normal, usually more than 100 F (37.7 C) and increased rate increased.
  • Agitation.

Employers are reminded to provide workers with plenty of shaded rest time and with water about every 15 minutes. Try to get the more difficult jobs done and out of the way earlier in the day. Try training new employees in increments, exposing them to period of heat a little at a time.

Remember, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that were more than 200 heat-related deaths from 2003 to 2009. A large majority of these deaths happened in the construction industry. During those same years, there were nearly 15,500 heat-related injuries and illnesses that required employees to lose days at work.

Continue reading "Construction Workers Face High-Risk of Potentially Fatal Work Accidents in Massachusetts This Summer " »

OSHA Strives to Protect Whistleblowers to Decrease Work Accidents in Massachusetts and Elsewhere

August 10, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced that it's made changes to and strengthened the Whistleblower Protection Program.

OSHA will soon be releasing the internal report that was conducted to review the entire program. This program helps protect employees that voice their concerns about work safety issues to help prevent work accidents in Boston and elsewhere throughout the United States.
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The protection program currently consists of more than 20 statutes that are used to protect employees who step up and speak out regarding workplace safety issues. The issues include commercial motor carrier, airline, consumer product, nuclear, environmental, securities, financial reform, pipeline, food safety, railroad, health care, public transportation and maritime laws. Employees of all types are protected under these revised regulations.

Our Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneys understand how beneficial this program is. Oftentimes, workers can face the wrath of an angry employer after reporting them to authorities for potential work hazards. This program helps to protect employees from any form of retaliation from their employer. Retaliation can include being fired, being harassed at your job or being treated differently. Employers are not allowed to fight back after being turned in for presenting work hazards to employees. This protection plan is aimed at encouraging employees to report hazardous findings to help prevent work injuries.

"The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their legal rights without fear of retaliation is crucial to many of the legal protections and safeguards that all Americans value," said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA's Assistant Secretary.

The whistleblower program was audited both in 2009 and 2010 by the Government Accountability Office (GOA). Through these audits, the Office determined changes that could be made to better the program. Some of the changes that have been recommended were related to operational procedures, equipment, national and regional program structures, training for both investigators and managers, internal communications, budget, the investigative processes and various personnel issues.

Dr. Michaels says that OSHA will be striving to correct the issues brought forth in the audit from the GOA and from the internal audit.

Some of the major changes that can be found in the new set of rules and regulations include:

-Restructuring: The program will now report straight to the assistant secretary rather than to the Directorate of Enforcement. A pilot project is currently being tested to find more efficient ways to track efforts and hold accountable all of its accomplishments and various activities. The office will hire 25 additional investigators as well.

-Training: A national conference will be held in September for whistleblower investigators and require that all agents complete mandatory training courses.

-Program Policy: OSHA will be releasing the new edition of its Whistleblower Investigations Manual to inform employers and employees of the new updates, laws and procedures. This is the first revision since 2003.

-Internal Systems: The Administration will be looking into how to strengthen and expand their offices to help to ensure that complains are handled in a timely fashion.

Continue reading "OSHA Strives to Protect Whistleblowers to Decrease Work Accidents in Massachusetts and Elsewhere" »

Salisbury Firefighter Suffers Injuries in Massachusetts after Firehouse Accident

August 8, 2011

Firefighters are here to protect us. They save our lives, they save our belongings and they save our loved ones. They're used to stress. Firefighters can make any number of critical rescues during a career, but how many times do we hear about emergencies at the firehouse?
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Last week, a Salisbury Fire Department had an emergency of its own. Lieutenant Tim Oliveria was changing the oil of a departmental SUV when the jack failed, dropping the vehicle on top of his chest. Firefighters quickly began the laborious task of extricating one of their own from the potentially fatal work accident in Massachusetts.

Our Massachusetts injury lawyers thoughts and prayers are with the firefighter as the oil-change accident caused some serious internal injuries. His ribs are broken and the stress from the accident was followed by a serious heart attack, according to Boston.com.

"It's entirely different from the day-to-day stuff we normally run across. This is a brother, a friend. We hang out on off-days," said Salisbury Deputy Fire Chief Steven LeSage. "It's not really something I've experienced in the 26 years that I've been on, because we're a small department, about 20 guys, not like Boston or FDNY [New York]."

When firefighters were able to finally free the Lieutenant, they noticed that he had no pulse. They were unable to resuscitate him at the scene. An American Medical Response ambulance crew arrived and took him to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport. He was later airlifted to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. His condition was listed as critical as of Monday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and we hope that Lieutenant Oliveria has a full recovery," said Edward Kelly, president of the state fire union.

State Police are investigating the incident.

According to firefighter polls regarding their sources of stress and worry on the job, injury or death to other firefighters continue to be at the top of the list. Surprisingly, injury to themselves remains at the bottom of the list.

"It's been devastating. Guys have that 1,000-yard stare on, because it's Timmy," LeSage said.

As per standard procedure, Merrimac, Newburyport, and Amesbury covered the Salisbury firehouse.

"It is very important. It is extremely important that these guys be able to clear their heads and minds of the incident before they come back to work," said Merrimac Fire Chief Ralph Spencer, who spent part of Friday working in Salisbury.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 30 firefighters lost their lives on the job in 2010. During that same year, the median age range of firefighters who lost their lives on the job averaged 52.5-years-old.

Continue reading "Salisbury Firefighter Suffers Injuries in Massachusetts after Firehouse Accident" »

Fatal New England Work Accident Results in 18 Serious Violations

August 2, 2011

A New England Work Accident ended fatally after two employees were performing work on a rigging cable -- the sling holding the cable in place failed. The cable shot across the room and struck the two workers. After inspection of the accident scene and the work site, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded that the test bed guards were not utilized to prevent employees from being struck by the cable.
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The company, Composite Rigging Ltd. and Co., has received 18 alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards from OSHA.

Our Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneys would like all employees to know that it is the responsibility of their employer to eliminate hazards that can cause on the job injuries. If you or a loved one has been involved in a workplace injury, you are urged to contact an attorney to help you fight for your rights and for the compensation you deserve.

"Proper guarding would have kept these workers from being struck," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's Rhode Island area director. "I call upon Rhode Island employers using similar equipment to examine it, and if necessary, take preventive measures so that similar incidents with tragic consequences do not happen again."

The inspection that OSHA conducted resulted in a number of other hazardous conditions, including:

-Unguarded or inadequately guarded grinders, lathes and fans.

-Misused electrical equipment.

-A powered industrial truck modified without the manufacturer's approval.

-Lack of daily examinations of a powered industrial truck for defects.

-No suitable quick-drenching facilities for employees working with corrosive materials.

-Lack of a written respiratory protection program; not conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace.

-Inadequate precautions against the ignition of flammable vapors.

-Unlabeled containers of chemicals.

-An inadequate stair rail.

All of these hazardous conditions were found at a facility that was unrelated to the fatal accident. For all of these violations, Composite Rigging Ltd. and Co., faces more than $54,000 in proposed fines.

A company receives a serious violation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard when employer knew or should have known about it in the first place.

The company will have 15 business days from the date of the receipt of the citations and the proposed penalties to comply, contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission or meet with OSHA's area director.

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