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How to avoid electrocution on the job

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Some jobs carry a higher risk of injury or death from electrical hazards than others. Workers in the construction and trade industries and electricians and their apprentices can sustain serious or fatal injuries from contact with electricity.

What you may find surprising is that 28 percent of on-the-job electrical-related deaths in 2017 were linked to professional and business-related services, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). Workers in non-trade businesses often are unaware of the dangers of electricity in their workplace.

What are the types of electrical accidents on the job?

According to the National Center for Biological Information, electrical injuries are common and are associated with a high rate of death. People who survive electrical accidents often face a difficult recovery because of damage to internal organs.

Types of electrical burns include:

  • Electric shock: When current passes through the body, which may result in damage to internal organs, muscles, nerves and soft tissue.
  • Flash injury: When an electrical arc passes over the skin and does not enter the body.
  • Flame injury: When an arc flash ignites clothing or other objects and causes a fire.
  • Low voltage injury: An electrical burn caused by a power source of 500 volts or less.
  • High voltage injury: An electrical burn caused by a high voltage power source and often associated with electricity passing through the individual’s entire body.

What is electrocution?

An electrocution is a type of fatal injury caused by electric shock, or current passing through the body. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists electrocution accidents as one of the top four fatal injuries for construction workers.

Common electrocution hazards on job sites include:

  • Exposed wiring
  • Wet conditions while outlets are exposed
  • Overhead or buried power lines

When working around electricity, it’s important to take steps to stay safe. OSHA recommends employers and workers:

  • Identify utilities before starting work.
  • Check for overhead power lines when operating equipment.
  • Keep a safe distance from power lines.
  • Do not use portable electrical tools unless they are grounded or double insulated.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters for protection.
  • Be aware of possible electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.

What to do after an electrical injury or electrocution

Nobody expects to suffer an electrical accident or electrocution while working. I you were injured, however, you will need to be prepared to take action. Remain calm, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. In some cases, victims go into shock and don’t realize they have been seriously injured. It’s critical to consult with a medical professional.

Victims injured at work will need to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover losses. Workers’ comp will cover medical bills and lost wages, among other benefits.

If a third party (an entity other than your employer) was negligent, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

Electrical accidents can become complex legal cases. A third-party may deny any responsibility. An employer and their insurance company may downplay the severity of the injuries.

Schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to make sure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl. Trust us to handle your claim while you focus on your recovery.

How to Be Safe at Work as MA Loosens COVID-19 Restrictions

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has issued a set of general rules that requires all employers to follow social distancing protocols for both employees and customers. Under the rules, all employees also must wear masks or face coverings. The governor, however, did not mandate that employers supply the equipment. Some workers, depending on the nature of their jobs, may have to wear gloves or other protective gear.

Businesses must also offer areas where employees can wash their hands, and must regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Guidance specific to industries will be released as the reopening of the economy continues.

Workers exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms have the option of staying home without fear of losing their jobs. Employers must address each individual situation and put plans in place for the safe return of workers. In general, ailing workers are entitled to up to two weeks of paid sick leave.

What If You Don’t Feel Protected from COVID-19 at Work?

You may suffer from underlying conditions – asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, being over age 65 and others – that put you at greater risk if you are exposed to the virus. You can ask your employer to make accommodations for you, such as a private office, different work shifts, or continuing to work from home.

If your employer is not following pandemic safety protocols, you and your coworkers can file a complaint with your local board of health, the state attorney general’s office, or the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Be sure to document your case. Laws also protect you from retaliation by your employer if you report their behavior.

Depending on the circumstances, however, an employer can fire you if you refuse to return to work. If you simply do not feel safe and choose to quit your job for “just cause,” you may qualify for unemployment benefits. The process is complicated and could require you to testify at a hearing.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 at Work?

The biggest obstacle to people returning to work is the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Conditions and safety advisories seem to change almost daily. As a result, your right to work in a safe environment may clash with your employer’s desire to return to business as soon as possible. New regulations are likely, with worker advocates and business lobbyists likely to square off in the legislature and in the courts. In the meantime, your livelihood could be in legal limbo.

The workers’ compensation lawyers at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl know how to fight for the rights of clients in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We have a proven track record of aggressively defending worker rights against employers and insurance companies. We can guide you through the legal process toward fair compensation. Contact us at our offices in Fall River and Foxborough, Mass., or Providence, R.I., for a free case consultation today.

The importance of ladder safety on the job

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Ladders are used across many industries, including construction, retail, maintenance, utility work and grounds-keeping. Working from any height can be dangerous. It only takes one error in judgment to slip, or misstep to fall.

According to an article in Occupational Health & Safety, many serious injuries and deaths resulting from falls that happen from heights of less than 10 feet.

The dangers of working with ladders

There are a number of reasons why this can happen, including:

  • Worker distraction: Something as common as a conversation between two workers or a cellphone notification can lead to distraction.
  • Slippery surface on a ladder: Water, spilled liquids, and other slippery substances can significantly increase the risk of falling.
  • Incorrect placement and use of a ladder: Ladders should be placed on an even ground surface and should be sturdy. Any wiggle room can lead to instability.
  • Worker complacency: Some workers become overconfident when working on ladders and fail to take adequate safety precautions.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue happens when workers don’t get enough sleep, work long hours, or overexert themselves on the job. Fatigued workers are more prone to errors that can lead to falls.
  • Stress: Working too fast to keep up with demands can lead to poor safety practices and dangerous errors.

How can accidents involving ladders be prevented?

Another article by Occupational Safety & Health suggests doing the following to prevent ladder accidents:

  • Ensure that the right ladder is being used: Workers should not be overextending or reaching to perform a task on a ladder. When workers find themselves doing this, then they are likely not using the right sized ladder for the job.
  • Maintain three points of contact: When using a ladder, workers should maintain three points of contact: hands, knees, and feet. Hands and feet should firmly grip each step on the ladder and knees should make contact for added stability.
  • Avoid overreaching: When using the right sized ladder, workers shouldn’t have to reach for an item or to perform a task. Instead, it would be better to readjust the ladder.
  • Use the 4-1 ratio: For every four feet of ladder length used, the base should be moved pulled away from the wall by one foot.
  • Ensure ladder is level: A ladder should never wobble or feel unsteady. Instead, it should be placed on an even surface or adjusted with an integrated leg leveler.
  • Inspect ladder: It’s important to always inspect a ladder before using it. Check for dents, cracks, or damage to the legs, steps, or base.
  • Watch out for electric conductivity: Those who work around electricity should avoid using aluminum or ladders made from other metals. Instead, fiberglass ladders (which are non-conductive) should be used to avoid electric shocks from occurring.
  • Watch your step: About 20 percent of ladder-related injuries occur when someone misses the bottom step of a ladder. When stepping down from a ladder, be sure to watch your footing to avoid slipping and falling.

If you were injured in a ladder accident at work, you have the right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help guide you through the process and maximize your chances of getting compensated.

To schedule your free case evaluation, contact us online or call us at 508-677-4900.

Can I collect workers’ compensation if I was injured while working from home?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Governor Charlie Baker issued a statewide stay-at-home order in March, which will stay in effect until further notice. Many Massachusetts businesses have closed their doors as a result, but some employees have the luxury of working from home.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29 percent of U.S. employees (42 million workers) are capable of working remotely when needed. If you were hurt on the job while working from home, it’s important that you know your rights. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can answer any questions you have regarding your at-home work injury.

Can I collect workers’ compensation if injured at home?

Accidents can happen anywhere. Remote workers are just as likely to be injured on the job at home as they are at a physical location. There are many possibilities of how an injury can happen at home. Some examples include:

  • A worker trips and falls while walking from one room to another
  • A worker develops tendinitis or other joint-related issue

Workers’ compensation usually covers work-related injuries that happen outside of the physical location of employment. However, it must be proven that the injury was sustained within the scope of your employment. This can be difficult to prove, since the injury could have happened during off-hours.

At-home work injuries count while an employee is either performing work-related duties or while on break. It’s best to inform your employer immediately if you sustained an injury. This way it can be documented at the time the injury occurred.

How can I reduce my chances of having my claim denied?

It’s very common for workers’ compensation claims due to at-home work injuries to be denied. This can happen when a claim form isn’t filled out correctly or there is insufficient evidence that an injury happened within the scope of employment. Even if your claim is legitimate, the insurance company who represents your employer will look for any reason to deny your claim.

Workers’ compensation claims can be confusing for those who don’t know how the legal system works. However, you can minimize the chances of a claim denial by consulting with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can ensure that all paperwork is properly filled out and all needed documentation is provided before your trial.

To find out how we can help you, contact us online or call us at (508) 677-4900. We offer free case reviews and can speak to you remotely via FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype.

Job burnout can lead to workplace accidents

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Workplaces can be extremely busy. There is a lot of work to be done and employers usually ask workers to do more and to do it faster. But there are times when workers can feel overwhelmed, leading to job burnout. It’s something that has become much more common in the workplace, and has even been recognized by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has been helping injured workers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for decades. We’ve seen the very real effects of job burnout and how it can harm workers on the job.

What is workplace burnout?

Burnout is when you are depleted and drained by the responsibilities of your job. It can be described as a state of exhaustion and feeling that you have nothing left to give. It can leave you feeling that you are no longer able to perform the duties expected of you. You may start hating your job, even if you previously liked it.

Workplace burnout can happen when workers are overwhelmed with multiple responsibilities for an extended period of times. It can currently be seen among first responders and health-care workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Accountants bombarded with tax returns, warehouse workers scrambling to fulfill orders and delivery drivers given unrealistic schedules can all experience burnout. It can happen to any worker in any industry.

Symptoms of burnout vary. But they can include fatigue, depression and feeling useless. You may feel irritable. Physical symptoms can include headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure and feeling your heart rate go up.

How can workplace burnout lead to injury?

Burnout affects everything you do. For example, it can affect your judgment and your attention span. You may become less aware of your surroundings, leading to a slip-and-fall or machinery accident. You may forget to follow safety procedures. If you drive as part of your job, you may not notice a car or truck making a turn in front of you.

The result can be a workplace accident that leaves you with serious injuries. You need medical treatment. You may miss extensive time from work, meaning there is less income coming in. Recovery may take weeks, months or even longer. You can be left with a permanent disability and unable to return to your job.

Workers’ compensation benefits can cover your medical expenses and provide you with partial wages while you recover from your injuries. But if the potential for job burnout is still there, you face the risk of further injury in the future.

What can be done about workplace burnout?

Taking time off can help you recharge your batteries. But some of the same problems may exist when you come back. One of the things you can do is talk to your employer about adjusting your workload. Other employees may be able to help or do some of the tasks that had been assigned to you.

Make your own health and well-being a priority. Be sure to take your assigned breaks at work. If you have health benefits, considering going to a doctor or a mental health professional and talk about the burnout you have been experiencing.

Job burnout is something that many workers will experience at some point. But it’s not something that you need to learn to live with – it can be overcome. Make your own health and safety a priority.

Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl to find out how to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if you were hurt on the job.

Can grocery store workers collect workers’ comp for COVID-19?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

On March 24, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered all non-essential businesses to cease in-person operation to help prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

While several Massachusetts businesses have closed their doors to the public, grocery stores are still fully operational. Even while residents across the Bay State hunker down, many of them still need to go out to purchase food and other essential items.

What risks do grocery store employees face?

As a result of the high demand for essential items, grocery store employees are at a heightened risk of being infected with COVID-19 while on the job. Several grocery stores have installed Plexiglas sneeze guards at cash registers to help protect employees, but some employees may have to come in close contact with customers or may touch surfaces where the virus remains.

In addition, many employees have to work faster and harder in order to keep up with the demand. This can lead to worker fatigue, exertion injuries and workplace accidents.

Common workplace accidents in grocery stores include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Falls from ladders and stepping stools
  • Being struck by falling inventory
  • Accidents with forklifts and pallet jacks

What should I do if I become ill or sustain an injury at work?

There are three main symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you have developed any these symptoms, it’s critical that you report them to your employer immediately and call your doctor so you can get tested. Even if your symptoms are minor, you will need to quarantine at home for at least 14 days.

If you have sustained any injury on the job due to a workplace accident, be sure to notify your employer and get medical attention as soon as possible.

Can I obtain workers’ compensation benefits?

If you were infected with COVID-19 or injured while at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under Massachusetts law. Workers’ compensation would pay for lost wages while you’re unable to work and any medical expenses related to your illness or injury.

Getting workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts isn’t easy, however. Any errors made during the filing process could result in a delay or denial of benefits. An experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help guide you through your claim and help streamline this complex process.

To find out how we can maximize your chances of obtaining benefits, contact us online or call us at (508) 677-4900. Our case evaluations are confidential and free of charge.

Can I collect workers’ comp for a cumulative workplace injury?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Not all workplace injuries involve throwing out your back while lifting something heavy or sustaining a severe injury due to an accident.

Some workplace injuries take much longer to develop, and they’re not usually caused by accidents or careless mistakes. Cumulative trauma injuries can develop from years of performing certain job functions. They can impact the hands, joints, knees, back, spine, feet, shoulders, and neck.

What are some examples of cumulative trauma injuries?

Cumulative trauma injuries are prevalent in all types of workplaces and industries. Here are some varying examples regarding how they develop:

  • A manufacturing worker can develop musculoskeletal injuries after years of performing the same physical movements for several hours per day.
  • A construction worker may develop vibration-related injuries or arthritis due to hours of operating power tools.
  • An office worker may develop low back pain due to several hours of sitting and poor workplace ergonomics.

Muscle fatigue, lack of rest, poor posture, awkward positioning, and overexertion are contributing factors that can speed up the development of cumulative injuries.

What are common types of cumulative injuries?

A cumulative injury can impact a worker’s ability to perform his or her job just as much as an accident-related injury.

The most common types of cumulative injuries, according to verywellhealth, include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome — compression of the median nerve in the wrist that results in pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and arms.
  • Bursitis — inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) in the joints that results in pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Tendinitis — inflammation of the tendons that causes pain, stiffness, and restricted movement.
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow) — pain in the elbow, usually caused by overuse of the arms and wrists.
  • Ganglion cyst — a small fluid-filled sac that develops over a joint or tendon.
  • Tenosynovitis — inflammation of the tendon sheath where tendons and muscles meet, resulting in pain, swelling, and limited movement.
  • Trigger finger — a finger gets stuck in a bent position, with a clicking or popping sensation.

Musculoskeletal disorders that result in back pain, tenderness in the shoulders and neck, and discomfort in the limbs are also common cumulative injuries.

How can I collect workers’ compensation benefits?

If you have noticed pain and discomfort caused by the nature of your job, it’s important that you take it seriously before it gets worse. You should first notify your employer and make an appointment to see a doctor.

Your condition may require physical therapy, medication for pain and inflammation, chiropractic care, stretching, exercise, and time off from work.

An experienced Massachusetts and Rhode Island workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help you get the benefits you need. Our attorneys know how the workers’ compensation system works and can help maximize your chances of being compensated.

Contact us online to 508-677-4900 to find out how.

Dangerous employers are endangering Massachusetts workers

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Workplace deaths in Massachusetts have remained stubbornly high over the past few years. In 2017, there were approximately 74 workplace deaths in Massachusetts. That number dropped to 69 in 2018 and 47 in 2019.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70,000 Massachusetts workers sustain injuries or illnesses on the job each year. While these injuries and deaths are preventable, they have been difficult to reduce in Massachusetts. The negligent and reckless actions of some employers may be to blame.

Companies with OSHA violations operating in Massachusetts

After analyzing more than 12 million Massachusetts OSHA violations, WCVB found that dozens of companies with the worst types of OSHA violations have been operating in the Bay State since 2014. At least 35 of them had serious violations that OSHA said: “would most likely result in death or serious physical harm.” Seven of these companies had “willful violations,” which means that the companies knowingly violated OSHA’s safety standards and endangered workers.

Many of these companies endanger workers by failing to take the time to ensure that each worksite is properly set up, inspected, and maintained. In addition, some employers fail to provide adequate safety training to employees.

Two construction workers were killed in a Boston trench collapse in 2016, according to WCVB. The owner of the company, Atlantic Drain Service, was convicted of manslaughter in 2019. The company also had a history of OSHA citations due to safety violations — some of which were for the same conditions that caused the workers’ deaths.

City and state officials crackdown on dangerous employers

Shortly after the fatal incident in 2016, Boston city officials passed an ordinance requiring companies to disclose any OSHA citations they received to obtain a permit. City officials hope that this will stop companies with a history of violations from operating in Boston. Similar statewide legislation is currently being considered on Beacon Hill.

“They’re looking for red flags. If they’re on the severe violator list, they absolutely do not get a permit in the city of Boston,” said Boston Inspectional Services Commissioner Dion Irish. “In the past 12 months, I know there’s been at least a dozen companies we’ve revoked permits and stopped the work and required either safety plans or other contractors had to take over those particular jobs.”

Jodi Sugerman-Brozen is the executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). She believes that many companies with serious or repeat safety violations should not be doing business in Massachusetts. She told WCVB that the statewide bill is “important in terms of corporate accountability.”

According to MassCOSH, there are only 32 OSHA inspectors working in Massachusetts, which is not enough to maintain safe workplaces across the state.

“If they’re working on fatality investigations, they don’t have the same capacity to get out to do those inspections that are basic safety inspections,” said Sugerman-Brozan.

How can I collect workers’ compensation if I was hurt on the job?

If you sustained an injury or illness at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. This will cover your medical expenses and lost wages while you’re unable to work. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help you obtain the benefits you need. Contact us online to find out how.

Massachusetts researchers release analysis of statewide workers’ compensation claims

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

If you work in transportation, warehousing, construction, or healthcare, your chances of being injured on the job are high, according to a recent study. Researchers from the Massachusetts departments of Public Health, Industrial Accidents and Labor Standards recently analyzed more than 92,000 statewide workers’ compensation claims between 2014-2016.

The report focused on these key areas:

  • Causes of workplace injuries and illnesses
  • The most common injuries and illnesses
  • Injury rates by industry and job type

Which industries have the highest claim rate in Massachusetts?

Transportation and warehousing had the highest claim rate, accounting for 29.3 claims per 1,000 full-time workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the transportation and warehousing sector involves transporting passengers and cargo, storing inventory in warehouses, scenic and sightseeing transportation, and transportation for other purposes.

Among subsectors, couriers and messengers had a claim rate of 46.4 and truck transportation had a rate of 34.2.

According to the report, transportation and warehousing was followed by:

  • Construction — claim rate of 18.3
  • Health care and social assistance — claim rate of 12.4
  • Retail trade — claim rate of 12.1
  • Wholesale trade — claim rate of 13.4

What are the leading incidents and injuries?

Overexertion and bodily reaction was the most common type of injury, accounting for nearly 38.1 percent of all claims. This was followed by:

  • Slips, trips, and falls — 28.7 percent of claims
  • Contact with objects or equipment — 19.2 percent of claims
  • Transportation incidents — 5.5 percent of claims
  • Violence involving a person or animal — 4.6 percent of claims

The majority of workers’ compensation claims (95.4 percent) involved injuries. The rest involved illnesses (3.7 percent). Most claims involved:

  • Sprains and strains — 51.3 percent of claims
  • Contusions, crushing, bruises — 11.7 percent of claims
  • Fractures — 8.8 percent of claims
  • Cuts, lacerations, punctures — 8.4 percent of claims

How likely am I to sustain an injury on the job?

Work-related injuries or illnesses can happen in any industry or workplace. That’s why all Massachusetts employees who were hurt on the job are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, which covers medical expenses and wage loss.

If you were hurt or become ill on the job, you must notify your employer and seek medical attention as soon as possible. That statute of limitations in Massachusetts is four years from the date of the incident.

In order to avoid having your claim denied, all paperwork must be properly filled out and your claim must be filed in a timely manner. More importantly, it’s critical to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help streamline the process and maximize your chances of receiving benefits.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl represents injured workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Contact us online to get started on your claim.

Long, hard work hours may be linked to high blood pressure

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

If your job requires you to work long hours, exert physical energy, or both, you could be at risk of high blood pressure. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke, if ignored.

Roughly half of American adults experience high blood pressure (hypertension), which results in more than 82,000 deaths each year. About 15-30 percent of American adults have masked hypertension, an overlooked form of high blood pressure. Their blood pressure readings may appear normal during a routine health care visit, but may appear higher when checked somewhere else.

How many hours of work are linked to high blood pressure?

A recent study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension found a link between long work hours and masked hypertension. For example, employees who work 49 or more hours per week are:

  • 70 percent more likely to develop masked hypertension than those who don’t
  • 66 percent more likely to have sustained hypertension-elevated blood pressure readings

The likelihood of developing hypertension reduces with fewer hours worked. For example, employees who work 41-48 hours per week are:

  • 54 percent more likely to develop masked hypertension than those who don’t
  • 42 percent more likely to develop sustained hypertension

The study also factored in job strain, age, gender, level of education, occupation, smoking status, body mass index, and other factors.

According to the study authors, nearly 19 percent of participants in the study had hypertension, some of which were already being treated with medication for high blood pressure. More than 13 percent of workers had masked hypertension, and therefore, were not being treated for it.

Can I collect workers’ compensation for my heart attack?

Heart attacks and other medical events related to high blood pressure aren’t often regarded as work-related injuries. The stress of high job demands and long hours, however, can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, it may take two weeks to three months before a heart attack patient can return to work. Treatment may include chest X-rays, medications, and possibly surgery. The average cost of heart attack treatment is $18,200. The cost could be higher depending on the seriousness of your condition.

The biggest challenge many workers who suffer heart attacks face is proving that their medical event was work-related. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney if this has happened to you.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has helped injured workers obtain workers’ compensation benefits for about four decades now. We serve clients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation.