Archive for October, 2019

Rhode Island construction workers have been impacted by the opioid epidemic, according to recent state data

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Deaths related to opioid overdoses have grown to epidemic levels over the past few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 47,600 died in 2017 after using prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl — marking the highest number of opioid-related deaths in a single year. What’s more alarming, 37 percent of these deaths involved opioids prescribed by doctors.

Those who work in occupations that are physically demanding are at a heightened risk of opioid overdoses. That’s because doctors often prescribe opioids for work-related injuries — many of which are severe. This is done in order to manage pain while an injured worker recovers. It does, however, put workers at risk of addiction.

Rhode Island construction workers affected by opioids

According to preliminary data released by the Rhode Island Department of Health in August, construction and extraction workers accounted for nearly 20 percent of all statewide drug overdose fatalities. From July 2016 – June 2018, approximately 569 people died from overdoses — 103 of which were construction and extraction workers.

The report lumped construction in with the maintenance and natural resources industries, which together had an overdose fatality rate of 176.7 per 100,000 workers. Roughly 140 overdose deaths occurred among those who work in construction, maintenance, and natural resources. About 80 percent of those deaths were linked to fentanyl — a synthetic opioid deemed 50 times more potent than heroin.

National figures on workers’ comp-related opioid prescriptions

The CDC cites figures from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health which estimates that 66.7 percent of “self-reported illicit opioid users” were either full- or part-time workers.

Workers’ compensation data cited by the CDC says:

  • 44 percent of 2016 workers’ compensation claims involving prescriptions included at least one opioid prescription. This figure, however, has declined 55 percent since 2012.
  • 15 percent of workers’ compensation claims (as of 2016) with at least one opioid prescription had a date of injury in 2010 or prior, 30 percent from 2011-2014, and 55 percent no earlier than 2014.
  • Between 2008-2013 across 28 states, opioids prescribed to workers’ compensation recipients who had sustained back injuries (more than 7 days away from work) resulted in triple the recovery time in contrast with those who didn’t receive prescriptions.

If you have been injured on the job or have suffered complications due to an opioid prescription, it’s critical that you discuss this matter with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you weigh your legal options. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl serves clients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To find out how we can help you, contact us online and set up your free case evaluation.

Workers’ lack of sleep is leading to more workplace injuries

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Let’s be honest. Getting a full night of sleep is easier said than done. It’s recommended that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but many people, including those who work full-time, have a lot to juggle — jobs, family, health, finances, and a social life.

Sleep deprivation is a common problem that impacts a third of adults across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to WebMD, common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Poor memory
  • Depression
  • Increased perception of pain
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination
  • General fatigue that is worse than being alcohol-impaired

How does fatigue impact workplace safety?

The consequences of not getting enough sleep can spill over into the workplace and often worsens when employees are overworked, according to Safety + Health Magazine.

“We have a history of incentivizing people who work long hours with extra pay, promotions and recognition.” said Emily Whitcomb, senior program manager at the National Safety Council.

Data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2012 breaks down the percentage of fatigued workers by industry. According to the report, these workers don’t get enough sleep:

  • 34.1% in the manufacturing industry
  • 44% of all night shift workers
  • 52.3% of health care and social assistance employees who work the night shift
  • 69.7% of transportation and warehouse employees who work the night shift

According to Whitcomb, roughly 13 percent of all workplace injuries are the result of workers not getting enough sleep. Unfortunately, fatigue doesn’t get the attention it deserves from employers.

“When employers fill out paperwork for an incident in the workplace, most are not asking about fatigue, how much sleep the person got or how many hours they worked in the last couple of days,” Whitcomb said.

Aside from not getting enough sleep at night, other common risk factors in fatigue-related injuries include:

  • Night shifts: Night workers are particularly at risk of workplace injuries. That’s because, biologically, we’re not wired to work overnight. Our circadian rhythm (our internal clock) naturally programs us to sleep at night and be active during the day.
  • Shifts longer than 8 hours: Research also shows that when employees exceed eight-hour work shifts, their likelihood of sustaining an injury increases. The risk increases by 13 percent at 10 hours and more than 27 percent at 12 hours. Experts even link longer shifts with decision-making errors and reduced attentiveness.
  • Workplace stress: Extended physical exertion and mental concentration can result in fatigue. When working long hours without adequate breaks, workplace stress can be dangerous and lead to chronic diseases.

What are the solutions to workplace fatigue?

Workplace accidents related to fatigue are preventable. Safety + Health offers tips that employers and workers should consider, including:

  • Establish a fatigue risk management system: Employers should consider implementing a set of policies, practices, and programs relating to workplace fatigue into an existing safety management plan.
  • Offer education and screening: Employers should educate employees on the dangers of workplace fatigue and promote healthy sleep habits. In addition, employees should be screened for potential sleep disorders and offered treatment options.
  • Focus on shifts: Employers should consider reducing overtime and offer frequent breaks for night workers. In addition, demanding tasks for night workers should only be given during times when employees are most alert and night shift workers should be given adequate time off between shifts.

If you were injured on the job due to fatigue, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits while you recover. This process, however, must be done right in order to avoid having your claim denied. That’s why you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl. We can ensure that all paperwork is filled out correctly and advocate for a fair settlement.

Contact us online today to find out how we can help you.