Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Oct 2021

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.

Oct 2021

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.

Aug 2021

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.

Aug 2021

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.

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.

Dec 2016

Is a Toy Maker Responsible for Preventing Holiday Accidents This Holiday Season?

Massachusetts personal injury

Pick up the doll

Any parent of a young child knows which toys top their holiday gift wish list. But not every toy turns out to be a fun thing for kids to play with. Toys can present unexpected risks. They can be defective and dangerous. When a problem with a toy arises, a child could be seriously hurt or even killed. If a child is harmed as a result of a defective toy, it is possible the toy manufacturer could be held accountable for the consequences of the incident.

Is a Toy Maker Responsible for the Prevention of Holiday Accidents?

Toy manufacturers, like the manufacturers of any product, are expected to release only safe products to the public. There are especially rigorous standards for the production of toys because children will be playing with these items.

In addition to making certain children’s toys are as safe as possible, manufacturers of kids’ toys also have an obligation to make certain that parents are warned if toys have inherent risks. For example, if a toy comes with any small parts that could present a choking hazard to a small child, the toy manufacturer should provide a warning about the choking risk.

If a toy manufacturer releases an unsafe or defective toy to the public, or fails to provide appropriate warning to parents who purchased the toy for their child, they could potentially be held legally responsible for any harm that occurred due to the toy maker’s failures.

It would be up to parents to prove the toy company either released a defective product or negligently failed to issue a warning about the toy’s risks. If the parents pursue a claim against the toy company due to a defect in the product, parents do not need to prove negligence in order to be able to hold the toy company accountable for damages. However, whether parents claim a defect or a failure to warn about risks,  parents do have to demonstrate that the child was harmed in some way by the incident.

The problems caused by dangerous and defective toys are not insubstantial. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that a total of 254,200 toy-related injuries occurred in 2015 that warranted emergency room treatment in U.S. hospitals over the course of the year.

Since the holiday season is prime time for new toys to be introduced into the home, it becomes essential for parents to be vigilant about what their kids are playing with so those children do not get hurt or even killed by a toy with a defect. Ultimately, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to keep kids safe, but parents can do their part too to help prevent dangers, including checking the CPSC website regularly to determine if there were any recalls or warnings released about new toys which may end up in the hands of kids over the course of the holiday season.

Sep 2015

Why Social Security Disability Applications Go Up In a Bad Economy

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyRecently, an article on criticized the Social Security Disability (SSD) program. The article argued there is a “lucrative” industry dedicated to helping people get benefits who do not deserve them. The article was full of myths and misconceptions that are common among those who want to attack the Social Security Disability system.

As funding for Social Security Disability benefits is expected to run short in 2016, leading to a 20 percent benefits cut if politicians do not act, it is now more important than ever to push back at some of the common myths used to try to justify cutting benefits to people who need them the most.

Why Do Social Security Disability Applications Go Up When the Economy is Bad? 

One of the most pervasive misconceptions used to attack to the Social Security Disability system is the idea that people use SSD as an alternative to unemployment or welfare benefits, even when they don’t really need it.  Reason succinctly summarized this common argument, stating: “The statistics show large increases in applications for disability benefits when the economy is struggling and unemployment is rising but fewer applications when the situation is reversed. Given that people obviously don’t become more or less disabled depending on how the economy is performing, it means that people are using the program as a form of unemployment insurance.”

Arguments like this ignore one very important fact: most people who are disabled would like to work, but employers are less likely to hire them in positions they can do when the unemployment rate is high.

In a bad economy, everyone has difficulty finding jobs. The disabled, who have work limitations and who are thus restricted in the type of work they can do, are going to have an almost impossible time finding work. The fact the disability benefits rate goes down when the economy gets better actually supports the theory that people are only on disability when they truly do need it.  As soon as jobs become available they can do with their condition, they apply for them and try to get out off of the benefits program.

People with disabilities struggle to find work in even a good economy. The unemployment rate in the United States is now at its lowest level in years, but the Department of Labor reports the jobless rate for Americans with disabilities is still at 10.2 in September (down just a tiny bit from 10.4 when data was released in August).  The number of disabled individuals in the labor force all declined, with more people dropping out or no longer looking for work.  When things are this difficult in a good economy, it is no surprise the disabled will struggle more when jobs are scarce.

Qualifying for disability benefits remains difficult and the definition of disabled is strict. There is no evidence to suggest people are taking advantage of the program and a misunderstanding of statistics should not be used as justification to reduce benefits or fail to support this important program.

Aug 2015

Providence Workers Watch for SSD “Reforms” That Could Slash Benefits

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyBy the fourth quarter of 2016, the Social Security Disability trust fund is going to hit a budget shortfall. This trust fund is separate from the retirement benefits trust fund and the money within it provides benefits to almost 11 million disabled people throughout the United States. Those who receive disability benefits depend upon the income from the trust fund. Unfortunately, if something is not done, the shortfall will leave only enough to pay about 80 percent of current benefits. This means a 20 percent benefits cut, through no fault of those who are counting on SSD for income.

The Washington Post reports both Democrats and Republicans are in agreement that such a benefit cut would be damaging and arbitrary and must be avoided. The problem, however, is there is no consensus on how to avoid benefit cuts to the disabled who depend upon SSD for income. While some argue for a simple reallocation of funds from the retirement trust fund to the disability trust fund, there are many other loud voices calling for reforms to SSD (and possibly even to the Social Security program as a whole).

A Social Security Disability lawyer knows far too often when politicians attempt to reform programs, it ends up meaning benefit cuts occur and the vulnerable are harmed as a result. As the debate rages regarding what steps to take to prevent the 20 percent benefit cut which could come at the end of 2016, the disabled advocates will need to watch carefully and object vocally to any indication of cuts to the SSD program harming those who depend upon it.

SSD Reforms Create Risk of Benefit Cuts

Back in 1983, substantive changes were made to the Social Security system because the trust fund was expected to run out of money that year. These changes were influenced by a committee created in the 1980’s. The changes included raising the payroll tax, but also doing things like raising the retirement age and imposing a partial tax on Social Security benefits. In other words, the people who were depending upon Social Security ended up losing out and paying the price for budget shortfalls.

There is danger history will repeat itself. Currently, an op-ed in The Hill argues that simply reallocating funds would be a missed opportunity. Instead the program should be reformed.

The McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative, an initiative organized by a former republican and former democratic representative with a combined 40-years in Congress, aims to offer lawmakers a series of proposals to help shore up the financially-troubled trust fund. The proposals include things like changing the eligibility rules, which are described as outdated, and changing the adjudication system for appeals.

There is a very real possibility proposed changes could result in less people getting benefits or less benefits being paid out. This would be a tragedy for those depending upon SSD to make their monthly bills and pay their medical costs.

Contact a Providence disability lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit to schedule your free consultation. Serving Coventry, Warwick, Providence and surrounding areas.

Jul 2015

Protecting Providence Healthcare Workers is Essential to Improving Safety

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyOver the course of 2013, almost 58,000 workers in hospitals and healthcare settings suffered workplace injuries and illnesses. Workers in the healthcare field have almost twice the chances of being hurt in their workplace compared with other people working in the private sector. A high rate of workplace injuries leads to more workers’ compensation claims, unnecessary costs, reduced productivity, and decreased quality of life.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently concluded a three year National Emphasis Program for healthcare workplaces designed to prevent workplace injuries among high-risk workers.  While the program has come to an end, Safety BLR indicates OSHA has announced new guidelines for inspectors who are going into healthcare workplaces to identify safety violations. These guidelines are designed to address the most common issues that make hospital and other healthcare workers sick or injured.

OSHA, unfortunately, does not have enough inspectors to regularly inspect every facility. Employers and employees should be aware of the OSHA areas of focus and should voluntarily take steps to try to prevent the most common injury risks.

OSHA Has New Guidelines for Hospital and Healthcare Workplaces

OSHA has identified five of the most common causes of workplace illness and injury for inspectors to focus on when inspections of health facilities are conducted. These include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls.  Slips, trips, and falls– along with overexertion injuries– are the cause of 69 percent of all reported work injuries necessitating that healthcare workers take days off from work.
  • Overexertion injuries. Approximately half of the injuries that are reported among healthcare workers are caused by overexertion leading to musculoskeletal disorders.  Orderlies, nursing assistants, and personal care aids have a significantly higher rate of overexertion injuries and musculoskeletal damage compared with people in other industries.  Many of these injuries come from lifting patients.  OSHA recommends the use of mechanical lifts in healthcare settings whenever possible.
  • Blood borne pathogens. Needle sticks are a significant risk factor for workplace illness among health workers. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.1030, designed to prevent exposure to blood borne pathogens is also one of the top most violated standards leading to OSHA citations in healthcare workplaces.
  • Tuberculosis.  Workers in hospital and nursing settings have one of the highest risks of developing TB across employees in all industries.
  • Violence in the workplace.  Over the course of one year, there were 14,440 reported assaults among healthcare and hospital worker. Violence in nursing homes and other healthcare settings has increased for the second year in a row and 16.2 workers are assaulted or victimized by violence for every 10,000 workers in a healthcare setting.

The risk of these injuries and top causes of illness can be reduced if safety precautions are taken. OSHA inspectors are encouraged to ask specific questions when performing inspections in hospital and health settings in order to determine if adequate steps are being taken to reduce injuries. For example, OSHA inspectors should ask if there are training protocols and hazard-prevention systems in place and if anyone has been identified who is in charge of operating these programs.

If adequate steps are taken to protect healthcare workers, hopefully the high rates of injury in this industry can be reduced and the workers who take care of patients can be safer in their professions.

May 2015

Providence Work Safety in Focus for North American Occupational Safety and Health Week

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe first full week of May was North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) suggests that NAOSH week is an “excellent opportunity to focus, reinforce, and strengthen commitment to occupational safety and health.” Of course we shouldn’t stop there. Employers and employees throughout Coventry, Warwick, Providence and surrounding areas should focus on safety as the long summer months begin.

An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer knows it costs far less to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries than it does to correct and treat them. While employees should have costs covered by workers’ compensation insurance if they suffer an injury in the workplace, it can be difficult to get an insurer to pay the full amount of benefits necessary, and some legitimate claims for benefits are denied. Preventing work injuries is preferable for both employers and workers and NAOSH week is an ideal time to focus on some of the different steps that can be taken to make workplaces safer.

Preventing Workplace Injuries with a Focus on Safety

HHS suggests that participation in NAOSH week can:

  • Improve attitudes about workplace safety
  • Increase understanding of how important occupational safety and health is to workers and employers
  • Foster a culture that is safety-minded
  • Prompt more cooperation between employers and employees
  • Make employers and employees more aware of issues affecting occupational safety

Both employers and employees generally consider workplace safety to be a very important issue. A total of 85 percent of al workers indicate that worker safety standards are the single most important labor standards. Worker safety standards rank higher in importance among workers surveyed than other issues like minimum wage, family leave, maternity leave, paid overtime, paid sick days and the right to become a part of a union.

Employers also understand the importance of workplace safety for maintaining worker morale, keeping employees motivated, and preventing costly work injury claims. Workers who feel confident in their safety are more productive and do a better job for their employers.

Despite the fact that worker safety is a high priority for both employers and employees, a number of conditions may exist in workplaces that can contribute to a higher risk of workplace injuries. These include:

  • Poor lighting in the work environment.
  • Poor environmental hygiene in the workplace
  • Missing guard rails on walkways or other missing protective elements or protective gear designed to prevent accidents
  • Misused equipment due to lack of training
  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • An absence of safety protocols and training procedures
  • Safety procedures and protocols that are confusing and unclear to workers
  • Walking surfaces that are slippery, not properly maintained, or otherwise unsafe.

NAOSH week ran for the first full week in May and thousands of individuals and organizations participated in an effort to draw attention to these and other safety issues. While events like worker safety week are important to raising awareness of top safety issues, employers and employees should make a strong commitment to workplace safety that lasts throughout the entire year.

Contact a Providence injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit to schedule your free consultation. Serving Coventry, Warwick, Providence and surrounding areas.