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15
Oct 2021
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Work-Related Hearing Loss Is a Serious Work Injury

Construction Worker wearing personal protective hearing protection in a high noise area.

A workers’ comp lawyer serving MA & RI explains

Hearing loss injuries sustained on the job can have serious consequences. Once you lose your hearing, you cannot get it back. Whether your hearing loss happens slowly over time or due to a single, sudden event, losing your hearing at work is a serious medical condition that affects millions of workers throughout the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is promoting National Protect Your Hearing Month this October.

In many cases, people who suffer hearing loss at work are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. But actually getting such financial compensation and other benefits can often be challenging for many different reasons. That’s why it’s important to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who understands how the legal system works in your specific state.

How common is work-related hearing loss?

Work-related hearing loss injuries are some of the most common work injuries nationwide, according to the CDC. Specifically, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition among adults nationwide. The two most common physical health problems that affect adults are hypertension and arthritis.

An estimated 12 percent of workers nationwide have difficulty hearing, according to the CDC. This includes 8 percent of workers who have tinnitus (commonly described as a ringing in the ears) and 4 percent of workers who have difficulty hearing and tinnitus.

Among workers who have difficulty hearing, 24 percent sustained their hearing loss due to work-related conditions known as occupational exposure. That’s because millions of workers each year are exposed to dangerously loud noise levels and other hazardous work conditions.

Frequent causes of hearing loss at work

There are two common causes of work-related hearing loss injuries – loud noises and hazardous chemicals. This is why employers should provide workers with hearing protection, including earplugs and protective headphones.

Each year, an estimated 22 million workers nationwide are exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job, according to the CDC. Noise is considered hazardous if it is above 85 decibels or if someone has to raise their voice to speak with someone 3 feet away or less.

As for hazardous chemicals, more than 30 million workers are exposed to chemicals considered harmful to the ear or a person’s hearing. Such chemicals are considered ototoxic or poisonous to the ear. Ototoxic chemicals include:

  • Chemical solvents, including styrene, toluene, and trichloroethylene
  • Lead, mercury, and other metals and compounds, including organic tin
  • Asphyxiants, including hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide
  • Nitriles, including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile
  • Antineoplastic agents and other pharmaceuticals

Which workers are the most at risk?

Certain professions face a higher risk of sustaining hearing loss at work, including those who work in:

  • Construction
  • Factories
  • Assembly lines
  • Airline maintenance
  • Sheet metal work

Whatever type of work you perform, if you believe you sustained a loss of hearing while on the job, make sure you take steps right away to protect your health and your rights as an injured worker.

What should I do if I’m suffering from hearing loss due to work?

If you believe your hearing loss injury is work-related, make sure you take the following steps right away:

  • Tell your supervisor at work you are experiencing hearing loss and you believe your injury is work-related.
  • Seek medical attention right away. Tell the doctor you are having trouble hearing and ask them to examine you and run diagnostic hearing loss tests, including an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test or a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test. It’s important to have documentation of your work-related hearing loss.
  • Ask your doctor for written copies of all medical records related to your hearing loss.
  • Talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.

The sooner you can talk to an attorney, the better you can understand the legal options available to you.

A workers’ comp attorney can fight for the benefits you deserve

Even though hearing loss injuries are among the most common types of workers’ compensation claims, that doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy time getting the benefits you need for your injury. Many employers and insurance companies deny these types of workers’ comp claims, insisting that the hearing loss injury occurred outside of work.

Whatever the circumstances, it’s important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options and to better understand your rights. The experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help you every step of the way. We have years of experience helping injured workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island demand the support they deserve. As your attorney, we can investigate your claim and help you apply for workers’ compensation benefits. That way, you can get the support you need and deserve for your hearing loss.

Learn more about how we can help you. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with a workers’ compensation attorney who will make sure your concerns are heard loud and clear. We have three offices conveniently located in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and handle workers’ compensation claims in both states.

15
Oct 2021
By:

Despite Aches and Pains, Many Remote Employees Didn’t Seek Workers’ Comp Benefits in 2020

Photo of a young woman sitting at her desktop computer, doing computer programming in her home office

Find out why from a workers’ comp attorney

Workers’ compensation claims declined overall during the pandemic last year despite remote employees experiencing more aches and pains, according to news reports about the issue, including one published by The Hartford Courant.

Even though more employees said they were getting hurt while working from home, insurance companies did not receive more workers’ compensation claims from remote workers for occupational injuries last year.

Instead, many companies took preventative steps designed to reduce aches and pains for remote workers, according to officials from Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. interviewed by The Hartford Courant. During the past 18 months, requests from businesses seeking services designed to prevent work-from-home injuries increased by 200 percent.

Despite complaints, claims didn’t increase

Overall, workers’ comp claims declined by 9.8 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to statistics compiled by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) as reported by the Insurance Information Institute (III). Last year, $42,500,412 worth of net premiums for workers’ compensation claims were issued compared to $47,142,191 in 2019.

Insurance companies expected an increase in claims last year from remote workers based on more complaints about aches and pains from people working from home. But such complaints did not result in more workers’ comp claims from remote workers, according to Mary Nasenbenny, chief claims officer at Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

“They’re not going to HR to report things,” said Vivienne Fleischer, co-founder and president of Performance Based Ergonomics, in an interview with The Hartford Courant. “They might say I need support. My back hurts. I need a new chair.”

Common work-from-home injuries

Many workers last year had similar complaints about injuries or aches and pains due to working remotely at home. According to Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., some of the most common complaints they received from employers about remote workers involved:

  • Lower back pain due to poor ergonomic seating or improper chair height.
  • Neck pain due to improper keyboard height.
  • Eye strain due to staring at computer screens all day.
  • Shoulder pain or upper back pain.
  • Ear fatigue or hearing-related problems due to the use of earbuds.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and other muscle strain injuries due to chronic overuse.

What should I do if I have a work-from-home injury?

If you believe you have sustained an injury while working remotely, take the following steps right away to protect your health and your rights:

  • Tell your employer you are suffering from aches, pains, or another medical condition due to your work.
  • If your medical issue is ergonomically related, ask for a more ergonomic desk, chair, keyboard, or other improvements designed to prevent or alleviate work-related aches or pains. Many employers will conduct an ergonomic assessment to determine if your workspace is ergonomically correct.
  • Seek medical attention right away and have a doctor thoroughly examine you. Don’t try to diagnose your work-related injury yourself. Have a licensed medical professional conduct the necessary tests to determine exactly what’s wrong with you.
  • Ask for copies of your medical records related to your work-related injury.
  • Keep a diary or journal documenting exactly when and where on your body you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.
  • Talk to a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

Injured remote workers have the right to seek benefits

If you were injured while working from home, you have the right to pursue workers’ comp benefits—but claims involving remote workers often turn complicated. Your employer or your employer’s insurance company might claim that your injury was not work-related. As a result, they might deny your claim for workers’ compensation benefits even though your injuries were sustained within the scope of your work.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, we understand what you’re going through. That’s why we want to help. We have years of experience handling workers’ comp claims in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we know how to help our clients navigate the system to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.

Discover what we can do for you. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. We have three offices conveniently located in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and handle workers’ comp claims for clients in both states.

New Construction Companies Have More Workers’ Comp Claims, Study Finds

Construction worker has an accident while working on new house. The worker is lying on the ground with his yellow hard hat in the foreground

A construction accident lawyer reveals what you should know

Employees who work for newer construction companies file the most construction accident workers’ comp claims, according to a new study conducted by AmTrust Financial Services Inc., an insurance company that handles claims filed by injured construction workers.

In a recent article published by Business Insurance, the insurance company’s contractor risk report found that employees who work for construction contractors that have been in business for less than four years make up 75 percent of all workers’ compensation claims paid to injured construction workers.

What construction workers are the most at risk?

AmTrust Financial Services’ report was based on an in-depth analysis of 26,000 workers’ compensation claims filed within the past 10 years, according to Business Insurance. The report also identified which workers are most at risk and what types of injuries they sustained the most. Researchers concluded that the following workers are most at risk of sustaining an injury in a construction accident:

  • Construction workers with less than one year of experience made up 33 percent of all workers’ compensation claims.
  • Construction workers with one to two years of experience made up 16 percent of all claims.
  • Plumbers file 28 percent of all workers’ compensation claims.
  • Electricians file 19 percent of workers’ compensation claims.
  • August was the month in which the most claims were filed (construction work is often seasonal and takes place during the warmer months)

These are just some of the workers who face the highest risk of sustaining an injury or illness that requires medical care, time off from work, and other treatment often associated with workers’ compensation claims. Even so, all construction workers face a high risk of sustaining a serious workplace injury. That’s why workplace safety is so important on job sites.

Construction accident statistics

Certain types of construction accidents often result in workers’ compensation claims. According to the AmTrust Financial Services’ report, the most common injury claims among construction workers involve:

  • Slip, trip, or fall accidents – Specifically, lost workdays due to slip and fall injuries were 67 percent greater than the median for all injuries, at 21 days away from work.
  • Lifting strains – The most common construction accident injury at 11 missed workdays.
  • Burn injuries – The second-highest median days out from work at 19 missed workdays.

Many other injuries frequently result in days away from work to rest, recover and receive medical care. When this happens, it’s critical that injured construction workers get the support they need and deserve to fully recover. That’s why it’s important to fully understand your legal rights.

Talk to a construction accident attorney today

Construction accidents might seem like straightforward workers’ compensation claims. Unfortunately, these claims can quickly turn into complex legal cases. Don’t be surprised if your injury claim is rejected by your employer’s insurance for any number of reasons. That’s because insurance companies will look for any excuse to reduce or deny your claim, whether they say you have a pre-existing medical condition or that you got hurt outside of work.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, we know how to handle complex legal cases. We have years of experience handling injury claims for construction workers throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As your attorney, we can get straight to work on your case, including helping you pursue a third-party claim for damages, if applicable.

Discover what we can do you and contact us right away to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. We understand how the legal system works when it comes to construction accidents and can work with you to build the strongest possible legal case. Schedule an appointment today. We have three offices conveniently located in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and we handle construction claims in both states.

Hospital Workers Face Higher Risk of Injuries & Illnesses

Tired depressed female scrub nurse wears face mask blue uniform gloves sits on hospital floor.

An experienced workers’ comp lawyer explains

Nurses, doctors, surgeons, occupational therapists, medical technicians, and other healthcare professionals working in hospitals face a significantly higher risk of sustaining an injury or illness on the job compared to other professions, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health standards nationwide.

According to the most recent OSHA workplace injury and illness statistics, hospitals nationwide reported 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2019. Such work-related illnesses and injuries amounted to 5.5 incidents for every 100 full-time hospital employees. That incident rate is almost twice as much as the injury and illness rate for all private industries nationwide, making hospitals “one of the most hazardous places to work,” according to OSHA.

Many work-related injuries and illnesses are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, obtaining these benefits can often be challenging. This is why it’s important for sick or injured hospital professionals to better understand the issue and their legal rights.

Common hospital worker injuries

Injuries sustained in hospitals by employees working there can cover a wide range. Common injuries among nursing aides, orderlies, medical assistants, paramedics, and other hospital professionals include:

  • Broken bones due to slip and fall accidents, being crushed by an object, falling from a height or blunt force trauma.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) due to hazardous or dangerous working conditions. MSDs often involve injuries to the muscles, nerves, joints or tendons due to repetitive work involving muscle strains and sprains, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. This is why an MSD is often referred to as a repetitive motion injury, overuse injury, or repetitive stress injury.
  • Back injuries, especially lower back injuries, due to overuse or as a result of a single incident. Such injuries can range from chronic lower back pain to a herniated disc, which is also known as a bulging disc.
  • Head injuries, including concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These injuries are often sustained in slip and fall accidents or due to physical assaults by patients, co-workers, or the general public.
  • Strained or sprained muscles, either due to overuse over time or a single, direct blow to the muscle. Either way, hospital workers and other healthcare professionals face a high risk of sustaining such injuries.
  • Cuts and lacerations, including deep skin cuts to subcutaneous tissue, the innermost layer of skin. These types of cuts often require stitches, staples, or sometimes even surgery.

These are just some of the injuries hospital professionals regularly sustain on the job. There are many other types of injuries that can be just as serious and which require immediate medical attention.

Common hospital worker illnesses

Unlike many other professions, hospital workers face a high risk of contracting an illness on the job. Common illnesses sustained by hospital professionals include:

  • Healthcare-acquired infection (HAI), which is an infection acquired in a hospital or another healthcare setting, including an acute care hospital, skilled nursing care facility or emergency room. Infections include pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, urinary tract infections and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), otherwise known as a staph infection.
  • Sepsis, which is an illness in response to a severe infection. If not treated immediately, sepsis can be life-threatening.
  • Airborne diseases such as measles, influenza (flu), and whooping cough (Pertussis). Hospital workers often contract such diseases due to coming into close contact with infected patients.
  • Viruses such as the coronavirus, which can cause diseases such as COVID-19, due to exposure to patients and other people in the hospital with such diseases.

These are just some of the illnesses hospital professionals face every day on the job. This is why it’s important that hospitals take precautions to prevent worker illnesses or injuries.

Keeping hospitals safe and clean

There are many preventative steps hospitals can take in an effort to prevent workers from sustaining a serious injury or illness on the job, including:

  • Maintaining sanitary conditions in the hospital.
  • Hospitals providing workers with safety equipment and proper safety training.
  • Providing employees with ergonomic equipment designed to prevent repetitive stress injuries.
  • Providing workers with break times during their shift, especially if the job is physically demanding.
  • Hiring security personnel to protect hospital workers from harm.

These are just some of the steps hospitals can and should take to protect workers’ health and safety. Unfortunately, some hospitals do not take all of these preventative measures, resulting in a serious workplace injury or illness. When that happens, it’s important that hospital workers understand their legal rights.

A workers’ comp attorney can help

If you sustain an injury or illness while working in a hospital, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits and other benefits designed to help with your medical care and recovery. Unfortunately, obtaining workers’ comp benefits can sometimes be very difficult. This is why it’s important to talk with an attorney right away if you get hurt or sick while working in a hospital.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, we have years of experience helping hospital workers and other employees throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As a result, we’re familiar with the state and federal rules and regulations that apply to healthcare workers and workplace safety. As your attorney, we can thoroughly investigate your claim and serve as a strong legal advocate, every step of the way.

Learn more about how we can help you and contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. We have three office locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and handle workplace injury claims in both states.

30
Aug 2021
By:

Workers Injured in Massachusetts Construction Accident

a builder or roofer has fallen from the top elevation of scaffold on a construction site and landed on the next level . He is grimacing in pain . The shot is focussed on the area that the roofer had been working .

A recent construction accident in Massachusetts in which three workers fell off a ladder illustrates the danger workers face due to falls from height, which is one of the most common causes of injury and death in the construction industry.

According to WCVB 5 News, the accident occurred at a Norwood apartment complex when three workers fell 25 feet off a ladder while working on the building’s gutters.

One injured worker was airlifted by a medical helicopter to an area hospital, while another was taken by ambulance to Boston Medical Center with serious injuries. The third injured worker was transported by ambulance to Good Samaritan Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

The accident is under investigation by Norwood’s building inspector and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

How common are accidents involving falls from height?

Workers falling from a ladder, a roof, and other high places are among the most common types of construction accidents. Each year, accidents involving people slipping, tripping, or falling result in more than 235,000 injuries and 800 fatalities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

As for construction accidents, falling from a height remains one of the most common causes of injuries for construction workers. In 2019, slip, trip, and fall accidents resulted in 35.9 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 workers among construction workers, according to the BLS. Of those injuries, falling from a height to a lower level (falling off a ladder or a roof, for example) resulted in 19.4 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 construction workers in 2019.

Get a free consultation with a construction accident lawyer

Injury claims involving falls from height and construction accidents often turn out to be complicated legal cases. And if you’re not careful, you could end up paying out of pocket for your medical bills and other losses.

At the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, our legal team has years of experience helping injured construction workers throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As a result, we’re familiar with the state and federal rules and regulations that apply to construction accidents and workplace safety. We know how to investigate accidents and negotiate effectively with insurance companies on behalf of injured workers. That’s why we have such a strong track record of success securing sizable settlements and verdicts for injured construction workers.

Discover what we can do for you. Contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation with our law firm. We have three office locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and handle construction accident claims in both states.

30
Aug 2021
By:

PTSD Legal Dispute in R.I. Highlights Challenges Workers Face

PTSD Post Traumatic Stress written on the puzzle.

A recent legal battle involving the city of Pawtucket, R.I., and a city police detective diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) due to his work highlights the challenges workers face in workplace accident cases that involve mental trauma.

The case began when a Pawtucket police detective requested injured-on-duty leave due to mental trauma associated with his work, which frequently involves investigating serious crimes, according to The Boston Globe. The city’s police chief denied the detective’s leave request. In response, the detective filed a grievance with the city.

Four medical experts determined that the police detective was traumatized by his work. As a result, an arbitrator sided with the police detective, saying the city had violated the police union’s collective bargaining agreement by not granting the detective’s leave request due to mental trauma. The arbitrator also ordered the city to grant the detective’s leave request and restore vacation time and sick time used by the detective for mental trauma reasons.

Instead, the city recently announced it was planning to fight the arbitrator’s decision in Superior Court in Pawtucket. The city’s lawyer claims the police detective “exaggerated his experiences” and that mental stress is part of the job.

Understanding PTSD and mental trauma

The legal battle involving the Pawtucket police detective and the city illustrates the misunderstanding of PTSD and mental trauma that’s associated with certain professions. Some people might think that PTSD occurs shortly after a traumatic incident. But in many cases, people diagnosed with PTSD experience mental trauma long after a traumatic event.

Some people who suffer from PTSD experience it due to what’s described as a cumulative effect, according to Professor John Violanti, a retired New York State Police trooper who studies police suicide and PTSD among law enforcement personnel. The more traumatic events a police officer is exposed to, the higher the risk of developing PTSD, Violanti says.

Even so, Violanti says some judges and juries still question claims made by police officers over mental trauma.

“The officer has to prove the experience of the traumatic event was beyond traumatic, the worst that could possibly happen,” Violanti told The Boston Globe.

But Violanti and others insist the effects of PTSD and mental trauma on the job are real. Violanti co-authored two studies about the effects of PTSD on police officers. One study found that police officers with PTSD have higher chronic disease rates than the general public. Another study found that police officers with PTSD have difficulty making decisions, which can affect public safety if the officer is ordered to return to work. An on-duty police officer with PTSD, for example, might have “difficulty in making a decision, which affects not only safety of the public but safety of the officer as well,” Violanti said to The Boston Globe.

How a workplace accident lawyer can help

Workers suffering from PTSD and mental trauma should seek support and treatment for their medical condition, but going down that road alone often means you’ll end up encountering a lot of hurdles. That’s why you need an experienced workplace accident attorney on your side to guide you, every step of the way.

The dedicated legal team at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl in Providence has years of experience helping workers dealing with complicated legal cases. We thoroughly understand the ever-changing state and federal laws that apply to workplace PTSD and mental trauma. We know which strategies can be the most effective. We also never take anything for granted. We take the time to thoroughly investigate each case and know how to find the evidence needed to build the strongest possible legal case.

Learn more about how our law firm can help you. Contact us and schedule an appointment at one of our three office locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We handle workplace injury and workers’ compensation cases in both states.

Overheating & dehydration are common causes of construction accidents

Closeup side view of construction worker finishing a rooftop edge wall on the apartment building. One of them is taking a short break on a hot sunny day.

Lawyers who handle workplace injury cases explain

Many construction accidents occur due to dehydration and workers overheating, according to a recent study that emphasized the importance of construction workers staying properly hydrated while working in hot and humid weather.

An estimated 5 to 10 million construction workers face health risks every day on the job due to overheating, according to the study. That’s why it’s critical that construction companies provide regular access to clean drinking water to employees in order to avoid heat-related injuries.

“Without easy access to fluids, workers can become dehydrated, which is a prime cause of heat illness,” the study states, adding that the “health benefits of proper hydration” makes “for a more productive and healthier work force.”

How common are heat-related injuries?

A total of 79,660 construction workers sustained injuries on the job that required them to miss work in 2019, according to annual workplace injury statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Precise statistics concerning how many of those injuries involved excessive heat exposure were not available.

However, heat exposure-related injuries involving all workers in all industries have been a problem for years, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In particular, OSHA noted that 50 to 70 percent of heat exposure-related illnesses or injuries “occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time.”

In addition, OSHA noted that roofing workers are some of the most at-risk construction workers when it comes to heat-related illnesses and injuries. Specifically, thousands of roofers become seriously sick each year due to occupational heat exposure, another OSHA study stated.

What’s the best way to prevent heat illness?

The best way to avoid heat illness while working at a construction site is to stay properly hydrated throughout the day. This means drinking water regularly. Construction workers should drink 5 to 7 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, OSHA recommends.

In addition, employers need to make sure that construction workers have access to water at all times on the job. Employers also need to make sure that construction workers have the time to take short breaks in order to regularly drink water.

Construction workers and employers should also be aware of the warning signs of heat exhaustion or other heat-related illnesses:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Throbbing headache
  • Bright red skin
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Disorientation or confusion

Construction workers and construction companies need to take warning signs very seriously. Otherwise, workers can get very sick or ill due to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses.

How can a lawyer help?

You might think you don’t need an attorney if you sustained a heat-related injury or illness while working at a construction site. Many cases often turn out to be complicated legal matters, however. Sometimes, it’s because the construction company denies doing anything wrong. Other times, the construction company’s insurance company can make things difficult and deny your injury claim.

Construction accident attorney Deborah G. Kohl and her talented legal team at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl know how to deal with these types of cases. Our familiarity with them comes from years of working with construction workers injured on the job in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. You may be entitled to financial compensation in the form of workers’ compensation benefits or additional money, especially if the construction company you work for failed to take preventative steps to protect your health and safety.

Learn more about your legal rights if you or a loved one sustained a serious injury or illness due to heat exposure at a construction site. Contact our law firm and schedule your free case evaluation at one of our three office locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Unsafe working conditions result in fatal workplace accident

notebook on a bright green background with office stationery accessories

Our attorneys explain what you need to know

Two Veterans Affairs hospital employees who were killed while on the job died due to unsafe working conditions that could have been prevented, according to a recent federal investigation.

The fatal work accident occurred in November 2020 in West Haven, Connecticut, according to the Hartford Courant. A recent investigation conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed the incident occurred due to hot steam rapidly releasing onto the two workers. Three other workers were injured in the accident, and the OSHA investigation discovered nine safety violations, including a lack of safety measures that could have prevented the hot steam accident.

Worst of all, such accidents are not isolated incidences. Thousands of people are killed and injured each year around the country in workplace accidents.

How common are workplace accidents?

Despite efforts to improve workplace safety, accidents in the workplace remain common and result in thousands of fatalities and injuries every year. In 2019, there were 2.8 million workplace accidents nationwide, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Such accidents resulted in 888,200 injuries, including 295,180 muscle sprains, strains or tears, along with 136,190 back injuries.

As for workplace fatalities, they reached a 12-year high in 2019. That year, there were 5,333 workplace fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure is the highest number since 2007 when there were 5,657 workplace fatalities.

As for where the workplace fatalities took place in 2019, Massachusetts had 86 workplace fatalities and Rhode Island had 10 fatalities. The state with the most workplace fatalities in 2019 was Texas, where 608 workers died in work-related accidents.

What are the common causes of these accidents?

While workplace accidents happen for many different reasons, certain situations often result in more workplace accidents than others. The most common cause of workplace fatalities are road-related accidents in which employees are driving for work-related purposes. In 2019, for example, 1,270 work-related fatalities occurred due to roadway incidents.

Slip, trip and fall accidents are another common cause of workplace injuries and fatalities. In 2019, a total of 244,000 injuries and 880 fatalities occurred due to slip and fall accidents at work.

Other common causes of fatal workplace accidents include coming into contact with another object or workplace equipment (which resulted in 732 workplace fatalities nationwide in 2019) and exposure to harmful or dangerous substances (642 fatalities in 2019), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How can a lawyer help me?

You might think you don’t need an attorney if OSHA or another state or federal agency is investigating your workplace accident. State or federal investigators are focused on determining the cause of your accident, however, not whether you’re fairly compensated for your injury-related expenses. In addition, your employer, their insurance company, and their attorneys are often doing everything they can to pay you as little as possible or deny your injury claim.

Workplace accident attorney Deborah G. Kohl and her talented legal team at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl have years of experience handling these types of cases. As a result, we’re familiar with the state and federal rules and regulations governing workplace safety. We know how to investigate workplace accidents and find evidence in support of your claim. Whether it’s reviewing inspection reports or accident records, we work tirelessly to build the strongest possible legal case. Learn more about how our law firm can help you with your workplace accident. Contact us and schedule your free case evaluation at one of our office locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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.

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.