Massachusetts construction companies are focusing on the risks created by opioid use and addiction and the role these drugs play in work injuries.

The Massachusetts chapter of Associated General Contractors sponsored a statewide opioid awareness day on June 5, to draw attention to the impact the opioid crisis is having on the construction industry in New England. Workplace overdoses have increased by 25 percent each year for the last 5 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unintentional overdose is now responsible for 5 percent of all workplace deaths, claiming nearly 300 lives each year.

Opioid addiction was declared a public health emergency in 2017, after the Centers for Disease Control reported opioid deaths surpassed motor-vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. However, construction workers face some of the highest risks.  Construction workers are at six times greater risk that the average Massachusetts worker, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and now account for 25 percent of workplace opioid deaths. Boston Workers' Comp

AGC has produced a manual to help contractors identify and mitigate the use of opioids at construction sites. Common signs include constricted or “pinpoint pupils,” falling asleep or losing consciousness, slow or shallow breathing, choking or gurgling sounds, blue or cold skin, and limp extremities.

Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers know many construction workers become addicted to painkillers while seeking legitimate treatment for work-related injuries. In some cases, a doctor or medical professional may have inappropriately prescribed potent narcotics for too long a period of time. In other cases, a medical professional may withhold or eliminate a patient’s access to pain medication, forcing injured or addicted workers to turn to street narcotics to manage the pain. Prescription opioids may include hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, while illicit opioids most commonly include heroin and fentanyl.

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Sixty-nine workers were killed on the job in Massachusetts last year, according to the Boston Real Estate Times. It is the third year in a row Massachusetts has reported a near-record number of serious and fatal injuries to employees in the workplace.construction falls

A total of 59 Massachusetts employees died on the job, as well as 10 firefighters who died from work-related disease, according to the report “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces” by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

While causation can be more difficult to prove in work-related disease claims, the fact is such claims, as well as those involving repetitive movement and degenerative conditions that grow worse over time, account for a substantial number of Massachusetts workers’ compensation claims each year. The report notes occupational diseases claim an estimated 50,000 lives a year– many more lives than those that are documented.

ABC5 News reports a Rockland industrial accident severed a 66-year-old man’s arm at the elbow after it was caught and pulled into the gears while he was working on a machine.

Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers know amputation injuries are common across a number of New England industries, including manufacturing and farming. While many resources for recovery exist for victims of traumatic amputation,  a comprehensive legal and medical approach is best deployed when it comes to obtaining all of the benefits to which a victim is entitled. Amputationinjury-270x300

In this case an employee used a t-shirt as a makeshift tourniquet until medical help arrived and transported the man to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth. The Boston Herald reported that quick thinking Rockland police officers saved the man’s life by providing additional emergency medical care.

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The U.S. Department of Labor is suing a Boston construction company for allegedly retaliating against an injured worker by having him arrested by immigration authorities. Our Boston work injury attorneys know immigrants are among the most vulnerable members of the workforce. Often working dangerous jobs, for law pay, off the books with no benefits. We want you to know our laws offer both financial help and legal protection if you suffer injury on the job, regardless of your immigration status.

The complaint was filed last month with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and alleges Tara Construction Inc. caused an employee to be arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the man was injured in a fall on the job. He was seriously injured after falling from a ladder in March 2017 and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated an investigation into the workplace accident. Shortly thereafter he was arrested by immigrations officials as he left the work office.ladderfall-226x300

Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects workers who report an injury to an employer or who cause an OSHA inquiry. Law enforcement accounts indicate a company representative told a police officer when the employee would be present and that there were no objections to the arrest. Text messages back up those claims, according to the government’s case.

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Regulators are focusing on work-safety issues within the health care industry, where more workers suffer illness or injury than in any other career field.

Common risks include contact with hazardous chemicals or biological materials; exposure to radiation, x-rays and radioactive material; ergonomic and lifting hazards; violence; and exposure to contagious disease. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports more than 650,000 health-care employment injury cases are reported annually, some 25 percent more than manufacturing, which is the industry sector with the second-highest number of on-the-job injuries or illnesses.3mspraymount-138829-m-300x225

Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys know it’s not just medical staff who are at risk, as non-medical personnel, including maintenance, housekeeping, groundskeeping, food service and administrative staff, also face above-average risk. However, nurses, aides, orderlies and attendants are at particularly high risk. These employees reported musculoskeletal disorders at a rate of 249 per 10,000 workers, compared to the national average of 34 injuries per 10,000 workers.

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Media outlets are marking the 100th anniversary of Boston’s deadly molasses flood, which tore through the city’s North End, killing 21 and injuring another 150.refinery-300x204

The Washington Post reports the rivets on a 50-foot-high storage tank began punching through the crisp January afternoon in staccato bursts. I dull roar followed as 2.3 million gallons of molasses engulfed the Boston waterfront in a tidal wave 25-feet high and 160-feet wide. Traveling at 35 miles an hour, the wave tore through the North End, crumbling small structures and knocking the firehouse off its foundation. Several city workers drowned while eating lunch outside, and a pair of 10-year-old boys were swept away in the flood.

Investigation in the aftermath revealed area residents had noticed the tank had started to leak through the summer months. Instead of repairing the tank, the company promptly painted it rust brown, making the leaking molasses virtually invisible. While the incident has reached legendary status primarily because of the sticky mess it left behind, Massachusetts injury lawyers know it was also a key incident that put the nation’s focus on corporate America’s obligation to the safety of workers and surrounding communities.

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Hopefully you are enjoying a warm holiday season with friends and family.

But as the New England weather turns frigid, many workers and employers must take steps to prevent injuries through Massachusetts’ long winter season.snowworkinjury-300x225

When we think of work-related injuries associated with winter weather, we often think of utility crews, snow-plow and road crews, law enforcement and other employees who must brave outside temperatures as part of their daily routine. Certainly, these workers are at heightened risk. But many others face increased injury risks, from those working in cold factories and warehouses to retail workers task with snow removal and other outdoor activities. In fact, such employees are often unprepared for winter-weather tasks, which can put them at even greater risks than those used to working in extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) as part of their work routine.

Workers’ compensation lawyers in Boston know the risks are substantial but not unpreventable. Both employees and employers must do their part to stay safe on the job as temperatures plummet across New England.

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Boston Channel 7 News reports a construction worker was killed after being struck by a utility vehicle in Concord. The badly injured worker was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Investigators report the worker was on the side of the road when a backing utility vehicle ran him down.reverse-300x225

We recently wrote about the high risk of injury in construction work. And it’s true construction workers face greater and more frequent injury risks than those working in many other occupations. However, transportation accidents are a leading cause of fatal workplace injury across industries and occupations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports more than one-third of all fatal workplace accidents are caused by transportation incidents, claiming more than 1,700 lives a year.

With the start of winter weather, a wide variety of workers in New England are at increased risk of transportation accidents. From law enforcement, to utility crews and snow-removal crews, workers are often at the mercy of passing motorists when it comes to avoiding serious or fatal on-the-job injuries.

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Environmental health concerns of employees at the Hampden County Superior Court building are being investigated.

As Mass Live reports, courthouse employees showed up in Springfield to grill state officials over health concerns for those working at the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse. The facility was renamed last fall and dedicated to Roderick Ireland, the first African-American chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. oldbuilding-300x225

Earlier this month, employees at the State Street building received a memo about ongoing environmental testing of water, air and building surfaces. Mercury and lead are reportedly of particular concern, after Judge William Boyle became the second judge in the building to be diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig’s Disease, formally known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a nervous system disorder for which definite cause is unknown. However, fewer than 10 percent of cases are believed to be inherited.

The cost of workers’ compensation insurance continues to decline in Massachusetts, even as injured workers face a fight for benefits.

Massachusetts employer pay into the workers’ compensation system based on a percentage of payroll. Boston Business Journal recently reported the workers’ compensation rate has declined for the fourth year in a row — from 5.8 percent in 2015, to 3.83 percent for the coming year. hospitalbills-300x225

While it’s good news for employers, it is no reason for employees to cheer, as the number of serious and fatal worker accidents has continued to increase with the economic recovery. Factors for declining employer costs likely include: Slow processing of work injury claims, routine denials of benefits, a confusing system of benefits injured workers must navigate, and misclassification of workers as independent contractors.

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