More workers are testing positive for marijuana — here’s why

An industrial warehouse employee smoking marijuana

As more and more states legalize recreational marijuana, businesses are becoming more comfortable hiring and keeping workers who are regular cannabis users. In states where marijuana is legal, many companies have stopped testing for weed when they drug test new hires.

In a recent The Wall Street Journal article, business owners said that they do not want to turn away talent just because that person may have smoked marijuana over the weekend.

Also, they noted, marijuana drug tests don’t provide detailed data. Someone who smoked marijuana a month beforehand could still test positive for cannabis. Meanwhile, over the last 5 years, the number of U.S. workers testing positive for marijuana has grown steadily.

Lenient attitudes about its use and easy access to marijuana contribute to a riskier work environment for everyone.

Employees that tested positive for marijuana had 55% more industrial accidents than those who tested negative, according to the National Safety Council.

Marijuana dulls people’s motor skills, slows their reaction time, and messes up their short-term memory. A co-worker trying to do their job under any of these conditions increases the likelihood of a workplace accident.

Your right to a safe workplace

Employers have a responsibility to their employees to provide them with a safe work environment.

As a workers’ compensation firm, the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has been hearing from a lot of employees who have been hurt due to the reckless actions of impaired coworkers.

The facts back up what we’re seeing in our local offices in Fall River, Foxborough, and Providence, Rhode Island. Quest Diagnostics, Inc., one of the largest drug-testing labs in the nation, recently reported that of the 7 million drug tests they ran in 2020, about 2.7% came back positive for marijuana. This is up from 2% in 2016.

Going by the numbers alone, there are most likely more people at your work who are high, or possibly muddling through a marijuana hangover, than ever before. Can companies maintain safety standards and allow for marijuana use?

Why some companies stopped testing for marijuana

Now that marijuana is legal in 17 states, and many more have medical cannabis programs, some employers in these and neighboring states have loosened their drug testing policies.

In Massachusetts, marijuana is legal for adult recreational use. In Rhode Island, marijuana is decriminalized and there is a medical marijuana program. Attempts to legalize marijuana in this session — which wraps up at the end of June — seem to have stalled.

Businesses typically drug test employees when they are new hires, as part of random testing programs, or after a workplace accident or suspicion of drug use. Even though marijuana is legal, companies would still be in their right to test for it — they often test for alcohol. The difference between the alcohol and marijuana tests, though, is reliability.

There are currently no fool-proof breath, urine, or blood tests readily available for marijuana that can tell an employer when an employee last used it. Someone who has a positive urine test may have smoked marijuana anywhere between weeks and hours ago. This has made it challenging for companies to enforce anti-drug policies.

Some businesses have stopped testing for marijuana altogether, while others have stopped figuring it into hiring decisions.

Other companies have dropped marijuana tests in an effort to be more attractive employers. The hospitality and restaurant industry, in particular, decided to make room for marijuana. About 6.3% of workers in this industry had tested positive for marijuana in 2020 — the highest rate out of any other business sector.

The difficulty some businesses are having in attracting employees post-pandemic may further encourage companies to drop marijuana testing.

Marijuana increases the risk of work accidents

Not all employers, however, are so mellow about marijuana. In industries where heavy equipment is used, like construction and transportation, many employers are maintaining strict anti-marijuana drug policies.

This effort shouldn’t be restricted to big rigs and building, though. An impaired worker can cause a careless accident in a restaurant just as easily as they can in a warehouse.

Employees who test positive for marijuana had 85% more injuries and 75% greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negative, the NCS said. They’re also less productive and cause more accidents.

Strong anti-drug policies

Just because it is difficult to pinpoint when someone last used marijuana — possibly on the job, right before going into work, or suffering a weed hangover — does not mean employers should stop testing for it. Strong zero-tolerance workplace drug policies lead to safer jobs.

A good drug policy should include manager education, access to support for employees with drug problems, clearly defined use and possession parameters, established rules for post-accident testing, and rules on how you will handle an employee’s conviction or arrest. The policy has to be clearly written to reduce the risk of legal challenges.

Personal attention for injured workers

People who work high pose risks to their fellow co-workers. Employers should not tolerate marijuana use at work and educate workers about the dangers of using marijuana while on the clock — or right before getting to work.

If you were injured while on the job, you have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of your medical expenses and your lost wages.

Depending on the specific details of your case, you may also be eligible to file a third-party injury claim. The key is talking to an attorney as soon as possible to figure out all your available options.

For workers’ compensation cases, not understanding how to navigate the system and missing an important deadline may result in your claim being denied.

With so much on the line, people injured on the job should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who knows how to fight for the benefits you’re entitled to.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, we know the workers’ compensation system inside and out. We have been helping injured workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for years, and we would be honored to help you get back on your feet.

If you or someone you love was recently injured on the job, contact our law firm for a free case consultation. We will talk with you about the details of your injury and help you weigh your legal options.

Call or email us today to learn more about your rights.

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27
May 2021
By

Leading causes of broken bones in the workplace

Man in a blue shirt holds his broken wrist with his other hand.

Every year, fractures (broken bones) account for tens of thousands of work injuries across the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certain fields such as construction are particularly at risk, but a fracture can occur at any time in any workplace, especially among older workers.

Employers are responsible for maintaining safe premises and protecting their workers from the risk of fractures. That’s why it’s so important to know the causes of broken bones:

  • Falls: even a slip or trip and fall can result in a fracture, though the more dangerous falls are from ladders or other elevated surfaces. Employers need to maintain their workspace to prevent falls and provide personal protective equipment to limit the risk of serious injury.
  • Struck by/against accidents: when a worker is hit by a falling object or slammed into a hard object with force, bones can experience significant trauma.
  • Machinery accidents: some types of machinery can crush hands or feet that are caught in them, or twist a limb with such force that bones are broken.
  • Work-related car accidents: depending on how the crash happens, a motor vehicle accident can break nearly any bone in the body. Workers may break their arms when bracing for impact or their legs when the cab of a vehicle crumples around them.
  • Repetitive motion injuries: the vibration of certain power tools can cause stress fractures in the hands and wrists over time.

Other types of incidents, such as workplace violence, can also occasionally result in broken bones. Regardless of the cause, a fracture is a significant injury that requires immediate medical attention — and will have a significant effect on the worker’s ability to do their job.

The high cost of a fracture at work

Simple fractures can be treated with a cast or splint to hold the bone in place while it heals, but more serious breaks may require more invasive treatment. An orthopedic surgeon may have to operate on the broken bone to put it back together and insert metal screws or plates to hold it in place, with follow-up surgery required months or years later to take the hardware back out. Certain types of breaks may require traction, a process where weights are used to slowly realign the bones. Patients in traction may be bedridden for several weeks or more. Moreover, because broken bones have to be immobilized while they heal, physical therapy is often needed to regain the full range of motion and strength of an affected limb. During the recovery period, the injured worker may need to use assistive technologies such as crutches or a wheelchair to get around, depending on which bone is broken.

Depending on which bone is broken and the nature of the injured worker’s job, a broken bone may require weeks or months away from work. A worker who can perform some but not all of their responsibilities while a bone heals may have to take on a “light duty” role with less pay. Depending on the type of break, there may be permanent damage that will have long-term effects on the injured worker’s career.

An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can protect your rights

Workers’ compensation pays for a percentage of your lost wages if you are unable to work due to an injury, plus the full cost of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment for the injury — surgery, pain medication, medical devices, physical therapy, and so on. If you are able to return to work on “light duty” with fewer hours or less pay, workers’ comp likewise pays a percentage of the difference between your new wage and your pre-injury wage. However, navigating the system can be a complex and difficult process with potentially thousands of dollars at stake. You don’t have to deal with the workers’ compensation system alone. Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl today for a free consultation.

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24
May 2021
By

Protecting workers from traumatic brain injuries

Yellow, white, orange, and blue hard hats in a row.

Employers must take responsibility for employee safety

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can change a victim’s life forever, and unfortunately, too many of these permanent injuries happen at work. Every employer in every industry needs to be mindful of the risk of TBI and take proactive measures to protect employees. Here are a few reasonable steps employers should take to minimize the risk of TBI.

Fall prevention

Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury and account for nearly half of TBI-related emergency room visits. The risk is higher in jobs where workers are frequently up on ladders or other elevated surfaces, such as construction, but falls can and do happen in any workplace.

Employers need to take fall prevention seriously by maintaining the physical workspace to minimize hazards. Trip hazards must be repaired, railings must be maintained, and spills must be cleaned up promptly to reduce the risk of a slip and fall. Any unavoidable hazards should be clearly marked, such as with a wet floor sign. Lighting, too, plays a role in trip and fall accidents, especially among older workers who may have declining eyesight.

In workplaces with particular fall risks, employers need to ensure that workers use personal protective equipment (PPE) to both prevent falls and protect the head and brain in the event of a fall. Harnesses, guardrails, lifelines, and footwear with adequate traction all play a role in preventing falls, and protective gear such as hardhats can minimize the injury to the brain if a fall does happen. In outdoor environments, employers also need to be mindful of the weather and provide appropriate gear for the conditions.

Struck by objects

Being struck by or against an object can cause the head to experience significant blunt trauma, which in turn causes brain injury. Protective gear such as hardhats can mitigate the risk in dangerous work environments, though it needs to be properly maintained to work. Properly maintaining the work environment itself to stop objects from falling on workers is also a critical preventive measure. Employers need to be mindful of the conditions, make sure tools and objects are cleaned up promptly, and train employees and supervisors on awareness and safety.

Work-related car accidents

During a car crash, it’s common for an occupant’s head to strike a window, windshield, chair, or another object on the interior of the car. Sometimes, car accidents can cause concussions even without direct trauma to the head; if the head moves forward and back with sufficient speed, the brain can hit the inside of the skull, causing damage.

While employers cannot control other motorists’ actions on public roads, there is a great deal they can do to reduce the risk of a work-related car crash on their employees’ side. Company vehicles need to be properly maintained to address mechanical issues that could cause a crash. When planning work-related travel by car, employers need to ensure their employees are well-rested and sober and make sure sufficient time is given for the trip so the driver isn’t under pressure to speed. They also need to take weather into account — avoid sending out employees on non-essential errands when it’s snowing, for instance. Finally, employers need to create and enforce an organization-wide distracted driving policy.

Responding appropriately to a concussion at work

If a worker has a suspected or confirmed concussion, the employer needs to put safety first. Injured workers need to get an immediate medical evaluation in order to confirm the diagnosis. Managers need to set a clear expectation that injuries should be reported immediately and encourage workers to get medical care. Just as importantly, the employer needs to follow the worker’s doctor’s instructions and make reasonable accommodations at work or provide time off to avoid the risk of reinjury. A second concussion before a previous concussion has healed can lead to second impact syndrome, a potentially fatal complication.

If you hit your head at work, you need to do three things right away: report the injury to your employer, get medical attention, and contact us. The long-term cost of a work-related brain injury can be substantial, and you need an experienced attorney on your side to help you navigate the workers’ compensation system. Schedule your free consultation with The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl today.

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23
Apr 2021
By

OSHA cuts down on inspections during COVID crisis

Working wearing a disposable face mask

Amid the COVID pandemic, OSHA significantly reduced the number of workplace safety inspections it performed – a move that likely contributed to thousands of infections and more than 150 worker deaths, according to a new analysis.

In 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated 12% of the worker complaints it received, according to The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the agency investigated 32% of cases the prior year.

Less oversight put workers at risk

Right now, it’s particularly important for employees to watch out for their own on-the-job health and welfare because fewer safety inspections are being done. The Wall Street Journal’s investigation into OSHA’s pandemic response revealed serious shortcomings.

In a review of 5 states and federal nursing home statistics, the WSJ found 6,000 workers who had been infected by the coronavirus after filing a complaint with OSHA.

They also found that 180 employees died of COVID-19 within four weeks of a complaint being filed with the agency.

This begs the question: If OSHA had been better at enforcing standards to protect workers from being infected with the virus in the workplace, could any of these illnesses or deaths have been prevented?

Work-related infections

At least 180 people died after a COVID-related workplace complaint was filed. The WSJ article notes the deaths occurred at least four weeks after OSHA agencies received complaints and OSHA’s investigation didn’t go beyond corresponding with employers.

James Frederick, the acting head of OSHA, has since said that the agency is working with the Inspector General’s Office to improve how workers are protected from COVID-19 exposure. He also noted that OSHA has fewer inspectors now than it did in 2020 when there were about 940 of them. Now, OSHA only has about 890.

Protect your health, and your rights

When employers fail to provide their workers with a safe environment, the consequences can be severe. The resulting injuries or illnesses often qualify for a workers’ compensation or wrongful death claim.

The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in OSHA’s ability to protect employees from workplace hazards.

People who are injured or become ill due to their work environments often feel like they have nowhere to turn for help. Filing a complaint against your employer – the source of your income – can seem like too much of a risk.

Pursuing workers’ compensation benefits can also prove to be a tall task, as claims involving COVID-19 are often hard to prove and highly contested.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace accident or developed a work-related illness, an attorney can explain your legal rights and help you explore your options.

For more than 35 years, the Law Office of Deborah G. Kohl has fought for and protected the rights of injured workers. See what our law firm can do for you and contact us today for a free case evaluation. Our offices are located in Fall River and Foxborough, Massachusetts, as well as Providence, Rhode Island.

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23
Apr 2021
By

Analyzing OSHA’s top 10 violations of 2020

An injured construction worker holding his arm

The biggest risk to worker safety hasn’t changed in 10 years

For the 10th year in a row, fall protection is the top violation cited by the National Safety Council and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The NSC and OSHA recently released the annual list of top 10 violations OSHA inspectors detected for the year. These are the kind of violations that can lead to an accident and ultimately a workers’ compensation claim. As is the case in most years, the top 10 violations haven’t changed much, though their ranks on the list may have switched.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is how poorly some employers protect their workers from being seriously injured by falls. Nationwide, OSHA issued more than 5,400 citations to employers who failed to meet general fall prevention requirements in 2020.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the list…

Top 10 workplace safety violations

While failure to meet fall protection general requirements was the violation most cited, OSHA also discovered thousands of other violations in 2020, according to preliminary data.

The remainder of the top 10 most cited violations by OSHA are:

  • Hazard communication – 3,199 violations
  • Respiratory protection – 2,649
  • Scaffolding – 2,538
  • Ladders – 2,129
  • Lockout/tagout – 2,065
  • Powered industrial trucks – 1,932
  • Fall protection – training requirements – 1,621
  • Personal protective and life-saving equipment – Eye and face protection – 1,369
  • Machine guarding – 1,313

According to OSHA, in 2020, there were significantly more violations concerning ladders and respiratory protection than in the previous year.

An unsafe workplace can result in serious injury

OSHA violations can result in a wide range of workplace injuries, including injuries to the back and neck, repetitive stress injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart attacks, toxic exposure, burns, electrocution, traumatic brain injuries, amputation, spinal cord damage, loss of hearing or sight, and longshoreman-type injuries.

Workplace OSHA violations are not to be taken lightly by employers or employees, as highlighted by one recent case.

In Massachusetts, a tax preparation business was recently fined more than $136,000 and cited for allegedly refusing to provide and practice COVID-19 safeguards for employees. OSHA claims the Lynn-based business owner refused to let her customers or employees wear face masks to prevent disease transmission, among other violations.

When you’re hurt on the job, hire a workers’ comp lawyer

Rarely do accident victims have a second opportunity to get the compensation they need to reclaim their livelihoods after being hurt at work. You need to get it right the first time.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, we proudly represent Massachusetts and Rhode Island workers who need help navigating the confusing workers’ compensation system and securing the benefits they’re entitled to.

Find out how we can help you and let us review the details of your case. We have offices conveniently located in Fall River and Foxborough, Massachusetts, as well as Providence, Rhode Island.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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31
Mar 2021
By

The dangers of construction work

A male construction worker doing work up high

The recent deaths of three construction workers highlight the everyday risk of working in a sector where industrial accidents are far too common.

Construction workers represented 1 out of every 5 private industry workplace-related deaths in 2019. This means that of the 5,333 people who died on the job, more than 1,060 were construction workers, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Working in construction is one of the top 25 most-deadly jobs in the U.S., and New Englanders were recently reminded of this most tragically.

In March, a Connecticut construction worker was killed in Cambridge when a parking garage stairwell collapsed on him. In February, two people working at a construction site in downtown Boston died after being struck by a truck.

Working construction comes with risk

Every day, construction workers face a multitude of serious risks including falls from heights, exposure to toxins, welding mishaps, crane accidents, tunnel worker silicosis, work-related car accidents, electrocution, asbestos exposure, and getting hit by falling objects.

The most common type of workplace danger for construction workers is accidental contact with equipment, falls, slips and trips, and overexertion of the body, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

The most common injuries contractors suffer are sprains, strains, tears, soreness, fractures, cuts, punctures, and contusions.

When industrial accidents are fatal to construction workers, the tragic event most likely involved a mode of transportation, harmful substances, or accidental contact with an object or equipment. Construction workers most likely to be injured, fatally or non-fatally, are those who work on extraction, the NSC said.

What happens to injured construction workers?

Construction workers who are injured on the job or come down with a work-related illness that results in at least five days of missed work time may file for workers’ compensation benefits.

When a significant injury happens, the employer is tasked with reporting it to the state, their insurance company, and the injured worker. Once the insurance company receives the claim they have a set amount of time to investigate it and determine whether or not workers’ compensation benefits will be awarded.

Get the help you need from a law firm focused on service

About half of all workers’ compensation claims are denied, according to the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA).

If your claim was denied, it’s time to get a lawyer – advice with which even the Massachusetts government agrees.

“If your claim is disputed, it is strongly advised that you seek legal counsel to protect your rights and interests, due to the complexity of the workers’ compensation law,” the DIA says in its injured workers guide to workers’ compensation benefits. The law requires that the insurer pay the attorney’s fee if you win your case.

“You may represent yourself for any proceedings before the DIA. This is not recommended in most cases,” the DIA said.

If you or a family member has been significantly injured on the job, it is important to contact a lawyer to learn more about your rights. You may be entitled to receive benefits for all your reasonable and necessary medical costs, as well as wage benefits.

For more than 30 years, the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl (DGK) has helped thousands of injured clients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. It’s important to have a tough lawyer who won’t back down when insurance companies attempt to lowball recovery awards or flat out deny legitimate workers’ compensation claims.

The lawyers at DGK are dedicated to winning workers’ compensation cases because each member of the team has, at one time or another, had a loved one on workers’ compensation. Our attorneys understand state labor laws and how necessary workers’ compensation benefits are when a family is reeling from a traumatic workplace injury or death.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has locations in Fall River and Foxborough, Massachusetts, as well as Providence, Rhode Island.

If you’re ready to file a claim, have questions, or need to file a workers’ compensation appeal, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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30
Mar 2021
By

How do stress and fatigue affect your ability to work safely?

A fatigued male construction worker wipes sweat from his forehead

For many adults, a typical weekday includes commuting, 8 hours of work, cooking dinner, taking care of kids, paying bills, cleaning, and a few hours of sleep.

The daily grind has left many people stressed out and fatigued. This situation has created a growing safety risk for many workers.

When people think about being impaired on the job, drugs and alcohol usually spring to mind. But according to a new study by the National Safety Council (NSC), people showing up to work worn out or stressed are so disadvantaged they should be considered impaired and a potential safety hazard, right alongside those who show up to work drunk.

The NSC survey found that 90% of employers are worried about mental health and chronic stress negatively impacting an employee’s ability to perform work.

Meanwhile, another survey revealed that adults feel tired or fatigued between 3-7 days of the week.

When people work impaired, even by mental strain and/or fatigue, the chance for workplace accidents increases. Workplace accidents can include things like falls from heights, toxic exposure to chemicals, welder burns, crane accidents, tunnel worker silicosis, work-related car accidents, electrocution, asbestos exposure, and getting hit by falling objects.

If you were injured on the job while exhausted or struggling with your mental health, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. A lawyer with experience handling workers’ comp claims can help you successfully navigate the complicated process of applying for the program. If you’ve already applied for benefits and have been denied, an attorney can also help you file an appeal.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl represents hard-working, injured employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and fights for the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.

Workplace impairment spikes during the pandemic

Impairment has been a workplace safety issue for decades, the NSC noted in its report. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the problem worse, with employers dealing with increased employee substance abuse, mental health distress, and fatigue.

More than half (52%) of employers surveyed said they know impairment is already decreasing the safety of their workforce. In a previous NSC study, the nonprofit safety advocacy group found that exhausted employees had negatively impacted 90% of employers.

Meanwhile, 47% of employers said they discuss fatigue, mental health, and stress as forms of impairment.

It’s not just employers who are noticing a drop in productivity – employees are feeling it, too.

In 2020, the National Sleep Foundation did a sleepiness survey. Of the respondents who said that a lack of sleep impacts their moods, 47% said sleepiness has negatively affected their productivity.

With more workplace accidents anticipated due to impairment, employees need to know what workers’ compensation benefits they may be entitled to receive if they get hurt at work. Asking for help, needing assistance, and being in pain are all things we sometimes don’t like to admit to ourselves or others. But passing up on the opportunity to get the benefits you and your family need – and have earned – to heal from a workplace injury will hurt you even more in the long run.

Our law firm offers hands-on representation for injured workers

If you’ve been injured at work, a workers’ compensation attorney who understands the state’s elaborate labor laws can help guide you through the entire process of pursuing benefits. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl knows how to fight for the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve to help you recover from your work-related injury or illness. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We have locations in Fall River and Foxborough, Massachusetts, as well as Providence, Rhode Island.

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19
Feb 2021
By

Should I go back to work after an on-the-job injury?

Returning to work after injury

An injury at work often means taking time off to get better. Whether you’re recovering from a broken bone, carpal tunnel syndrome, a brain injury or some other injury, you likely need time off to heal.

There will come a time when you may start thinking about going back to work after a job injury. You may be looking forward to getting back to your job and routine. You also may wonder whether it’s too soon.

When going back to work makes your injury worse

Don’t make the decision to go back to work on your own. You should always talk to your doctor. Your doctor has advised you to take time off for a good reason: You’ve suffered an injury and need to heal. By going back before you get the doctor’s “green light,” you risk re-injury and putting yourself in a worse situation than you were in after the initial accident.

You may be unable to work due to your injury

In some cases, you may be unable to return to work, period. Or, in other cases, you may need to take on different responsibilities when you do return. For example, If you worked in a construction job and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you may be unable to return to work even if you feel you might be ready. The TBI may affect your cognitive abilities. Your ability to make good judgments and sound decisions may have deteriorated after the injury, which means you might put yourself at risk of causing an accident at work and hurting yourself or others.

You may face a stressful work environment

Depending on the injury, you may need to ask your boss to make adjustments. For example, if you are recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome you may need to use new, state-of-the-art equipment which could cause resentment and jealousy among co-workers. Possibly creating more tension, you may need to leave work early for rehabilitation or physical therapy. In addition, you may face ridicule. Your co-workers or bosses may not believe you were injured that badly and treat you dismissively.

Your rights after a workplace injury

You may be tempted to go back to work because your employer tells you it’s time, but if your doctor says you need to stay home, you should listen to the doctor. Your employer is not supposed to tell you to go back against your doctor’s orders. If you do get this type of pressure, you should speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Also, keep in mind that going back to work after an injury could harm your insurance claim. Your employer’s insurance company might argue that you decided to return to work and therefore you were not seriously injured. You may lose compensation for expenses and cause other complications in your workers’ comp case.

If you have questions about returning to work after an injury, or feel your rights may have been violated, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Injury claims at work can become complicated. You should not handle the case on your own.

For a free and confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Focus on your recovery. We will focus on your claim.

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21
Jan 2021
By

Workplace deaths reached highest level in 12 years during 2019

Workplace deaths

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2019 was not a good year for workplace safety. The BLS released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data on December 16, 2020. The report concluded that 5,333 worker deaths occurred in 2019 due to workplace accidents. That’s a 1.6 percent increase from 2018 and the highest number of worker deaths since 5,657 fatalities occurred in 2007. The rate of workplace fatalities remained at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time workers for three consecutive years.

The BLS data also shows increases of:

  • Transportation-related fatalities – 2%
  • Slip, trip and fall fatalities – 11.3%
  • Construction and extraction worker fatalities – 6.3%
  • Driver/sales worker and truck driver fatalities – 1,005 (highest since 2003)

This report is the second of two, yearly BLS reports. The first report, which was released on November 4th, includes data on nonfatal private-sector workplace injuries and illnesses. The first report concludes that the number of workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector (2.8 million) remained unchanged from 2018 to 2019. In addition, the report found:

  • 15% of injuries and illnesses in 2019 happened in manufacturing.
  • On average, injured workers missed eight days from work. For workers age 65 and older, it was 16 days.
  • Workers that missed work due to sprains, strains, and tears visited medical facilities at a rate of 6.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

The National Safety Council released a statement to address the high number of workplace fatalities.

“Employers need a systematic approach to safety that includes having policies, training and risk assessment techniques in place to address major causes of fatalities and injuries. Leadership needs to set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, identify hazards and measure safety performance using leading indicators to continuously improve,” said the agency.

How can an attorney help me if I lost a loved one due to a workplace fatality?

Workers’ compensation in Massachusetts and Rhode Island is set up to provide financial support for injured workers. But it also provides benefits to survivors and dependents of deceased workers. In order to qualify for death benefits in Massachusetts, you must be the spouse or child of the deceased worker. If you’re the worker’s child, you must be under the age of 18, a full-time student, or be unable to work due to a physical or mental disability.

Massachusetts workers’ comp death benefits pays for:

  • Weekly benefits – 66% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage.
  • Eligibility for yearly cost-of-living adjustments two years after the date of the workplace injury/illness.
  • $60 per week to each eligible child if the deceased worker’s spouse remarries.
  • Burial costs and funeral costs.

In Rhode Island, surviving spouses and children are also eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits. Weekly benefits are 75% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage and 80% for a spouse with children. Children must be under the age of 18 or be unable to work as a result of a disability. Spouses lose their eligibility for benefits if they remarry.

If you were hurt on the job, or lost a loved one due to a workplace injury or illness, the workers’ comp lawyers at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help you get the benefits you deserve. We serve injured workers and their families in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To get started on your claim, contact us online or call us for a free case evaluation.

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19
Jan 2021
By

Understanding Accidental Disability Retirement (ADR) Benefits

Workplace disability

What injured public employees need to know

Most public employees in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have access to accidental disability retirement (ADR) benefits if they’re hurt on the job. However, the laws and regulations pertaining to ADR are complex and your eligibility to get compensation may be unclear. Here’s what you need to know about your ADR benefits as an injured public employee.

Who is covered under ADR?

In general, if you’re a public employee in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, you are covered under ADR. This applies to most people who work for the state government or any local, municipal or county government or authority, with some exceptions (one of which, notably, is the MBTA).

What counts as “disability” for the purposes of ADR?

Essentially, the definition of “disability” for ADR purposes is tied to the job you had at the time of the injury. It’s a question of whether you can do that specific job, not whether you can do any job at all. For instance, if your job at the time of the injury involved lifting loads up to 50 pounds, and you are now unable to lift more than 20 pounds, you should be considered disabled for ADR purposes, even though there are plenty of other jobs you could do.

What kinds of injuries are eligible for ADR?

To get ADR, you have to be injured while performing your specific job duties. This is a more specific definition than that used for workers’ compensation, which applies to any injury you sustained while on the job (with a few exceptions).

What does ADR pay for?

ADR only provides a single benefit: wage replacement. Specifically, it pays 72 percent of your pre-injury wages for as long as you are eligible to receive the benefits, which is reviewed periodically. If you remain disabled, you can continue to receive those benefits for the rest of your life.

What’s the difference between ADR and workers’ comp?

Workers’ compensation uses a much more restrictive definition of “total disability” than ADR. While ADR only requires that you can’t do your pre-injury job, workers’ comp requires that you can’t do any job in order to qualify as totally disabled. Conversely, ADR only provides wage loss benefits, whereas worker’s comp pays for your reasonable and necessary medical treatment in addition to wage loss.

If you’re a public employee injured on the job, you’re looking at a complex legal situation as you try to make the most of ADR, workers’ compensation, and whatever other legal options you may have. There are strict deadlines that apply to these claims and you need to take prompt action to protect your rights. We proudly represent injured public employees throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and if you’ve been hurt, we’d be happy to talk to you. Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl today to schedule your free consultation.

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