Nov 2018

Shortage Of Skilled Construction Workers Can Increase Accident Risk

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyConstruction workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have a dangerous job that requires a great deal of experience and safety training. That’s because the stakes are so high and can easily result in a fatal workplace injury. 

In Massachusetts, approximately 86 construction workers suffered fatal job-related injuries over the last five years, 37 of which (43 percent) involved falls from a height. 

Lack of skill is a lead factor 

According to a quarterly survey by USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a shortage of skilled workers has construction leaders worried about potential safety risks. According to more than 2,700 survey responses in the Commercial Construction Index (for the third quarter of 2018): 

  • 58 percent believed that workers who lack sufficient skills are making work sites more dangerous 
  • 62 percent believed that safety risks will increase within the next three years 
  • 80 percent were at least moderately concerned about the risk 
  • 26 percent were highly concerned about the risk 

The survey also found that construction leaders are concerned about other safety challenges.  

  • 49 percent were concerned about shorter construction schedules and 47 percent believed there would be a risk for the next three years.  
  • 71 percent were moderately concerned about the risks posed by opioid use, with 39 percent being highly concerned.  
  • 58 percent were moderately concerned about the use of alcohol, while 54 percent were concerned about marijuana use 
  • 67 percent believed that safety training is the most crucial way to improve construction safety, while 53 percent believed safety accountability was the most important 

The fatal four

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there was a total of 4,693 work deaths in private industry during 2016. Approximately 991 (21.1 percent) were caused by construction accidents. The primary causes, coined the “fatal four,” included:  

  • Falls: Out of the 991 construction deaths in 2016, 384 of them (38.7 percent) were caused by falls. 
  • Struck by object incidents: 93 construction deaths (9.4 percent) were caused by workers being struck by equipment and construction materials.  
  • Electrocutions: 82 construction deaths (8.3 percent) were caused by exposed wires.  
  • Caught-in/between accidents: 72 construction deaths (7.3 percent) were caused by workers getting caught in between equipment, structures, or heavy objects.  

If you have been injured on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of what caused your accident. You may also be able to file a third-party claim. 

It’s best to speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who understands the process and can answer the most complex legal questions. Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl today for a free consultation.

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Oct 2018

What Rhode Island Workers Should Know About Foot Injuries

Rhode Island workers' compensation attorneyWhen it comes to workplace safety, our feet are not usually considered a top priority. However, workers who endure hours of physical labor or standing are spending a great deal of time on their feet.  

According to EHS Todayjobs involving regular heavy lifting and standing for extensive periods can eventually cause severe, and potentially fatal, injuries that start with the feet and work their way up the body. Injuries affecting the knees, hips, and back can also stem from the feet. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 53,000 foot injuries occur yearly – accounting for 4.8 injured workers per 10,000 employees. 

Where does the risk start?

One of the leading factors in work-related foot injuries is slips, trips and falls. According to The National Safety Council (NSC), slips, trips and falls were attributed to about 44.5 million injuries in the US. They are often caused by:  

  • Anti-fatigue mats: These mats are designed to offer comfort for employees who stand for long periods of time. However, they can become a tripping hazard in the workplace.  
  • Pain in feet: A worker’s gait and balance can be affected by pre-existing pain in the foot. This can increase the likelihood of a slip, trip or fall accident. 
  • Lack of traction: Slick surfaces are common in many workplaces. If an employee is wearing shoes or boots with poor traction, he or she is at risk of slipping and falling. 
  • Poor floor conditions: Uneven surfaces, broken floor tiles, cluttered floors and other defects commonly create a slip, trip and fall hazard.  

Mitigating the risk

EHS Today also suggests ways to prevent slip, trip and fall accidents, as well as foot injuries. First, they suggest that employers implement insole programs. Wearing insoles can increase comfort while standing and reduce foot pain. 

They also suggest that employers enact a safety training program to give workers regular reminders of the risks they face at work. Employers can also allow workers two 10-minute breaks per day in order to allow them to sit down. Creating a relaxing work environment with limited stress can go a long way toward preventing workers from making careless mistakes that could put them out of work for months.  

If you have been injured at work in Rhode Island, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced attorney at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help. Contact us today to discuss your options.

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Oct 2018

The Opioid Crisis And Massachusetts Construction Workers

Rhode Island workers' compensation attorneyWhen you think of opioids, you think of pain. That’s been a major factor in the country’s opioid crisis. Someone sustains an injury on the job. To ease their pain, a doctor prescribes opioids. Before they know it, the patient is addicted to painkillers. In the most tragic cases, they die from overdoses. 

In Massachusetts, the opioid crisis has been particularly cruel to construction and extraction workers (a category that includes earth drillers, blasters and explosive workers, derrick operators, and mining machine operators). A recent report from the state’s Department of Public Health found those workers are six times more likely to suffer from opioid-related overdose deaths than workers in other occupations.  

How opioids affect workers

The primary reason is obvious. Because of the very nature of their work, construction and extraction workers are more likely to suffer major on-the-job injuries. As such, they are more likely to be prescribed opioids to help them recover. 

“Work-related injuries often serve as the initiation for opioid pain medication, which can subsequently lead to opioid misuse,” Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a press release. “Ensuring that jobs are safe, that the risk of injury is low, and that workers have the time for rehabilitation and are not self-medicating to keep working are all key to decreasing opioid overdose deaths among workers.” 

In their report, researchers found construction and extraction workers had a fatality rate of 150.6 deaths per 100,000 workers while the rate for all other occupations was 25.1. Construction and extraction workers accounted for more than 24 percent of all opioid-related deaths among the working population. 

Hidden dangers facing workers

Unfortunately, many Massachusetts companies are blind to the dangers of pressuring injured workers to return to work. Similarly, many doctors are quick to prescribe opioids for workers who are in pain without considering the consequences. In the end, it is the workers – and very often their loved ones – who pay the price of addiction. The worker is likely to lose his or her job. Treatment is expensive and options are often limited.  

Take control of the situation, your life and your future. Contact the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl. They have decades of experience handling cases just like yours, whether you are in Providence, Fall River or Foxborough.  

They will serve as your advocate, fighting aggressively for your rights while treating you with compassion. They offer free case consultations while working on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing unless they win your case.

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Sep 2018

Workers Left To Suffer After Amazon Warehouse Injuries

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyAmazon recently made headlines when its valuation briefly surpassed $1 trillion. Owner Jeff Bezos has appeared in headlines as well, as he has risen to become the richest man in modern history. Amazon has made waves in the world of e-commerce, web hosting, and is implementing their AI, Alexa, into numerous household electronics.

Amazon is well known for the speed with which it’s able to deliver packages, especially considering the size of its operation. Bezos has seemingly achieved the American Dream by growing his online bookseller into the behemoth it is today. But Amazon has made the news for other, less flattering, reasons.

Poor Treatment of Workers

Amazon’s beloved quickness appears to have come at a cost to worker safety and responsible business practices. Journalists have uncovered instance after instance of the company leaving injured employees out to dry, with many becoming homeless, unable to work, and lacking any income.

Perhaps the most well-known complaint from Amazon employees is the micromanagement of every minute of their time, even for bathroom breaks. Even the office workers report elevated levels of oversight, but their plight is overshadowed by what many warehouse workers have experienced. Amazon warehouse employees work at breakneck speeds to meet their quotas; broken equipment is left unfixed for months; and the company aggressively disputes workers’ compensation claims.

Vickie Shannon Allen, 49, was hired by Amazon to be a counter in a fulfillment warehouse at Haslet, Texas, in May 2017. While she was excited at first, that feeling disappeared in a few short months. She injured her back counting goods on a workstation that was missing a brush guard, a piece of safety equipment meant to prevent products from falling onto the floor, after trying to compensate for the missing part.

The medical triage gave her a heating pad, but management repeatedly sent her home without pay due to the injury. She eventually received compensation but went on to re-injure her back on the same workstation, which still wasn’t fixed. Amazon eventually replaced the missing part and reportedly offered Allen a compensation package in return for signing a nondisclosure agreement. Allen refused. She currently lives out of her car in the parking lot of the fulfillment center.

Vickie Shannon Allen’s ordeal is not unique. Many other employees who have injured and re-injured themselves have experienced similar fates. If you’ve been injured on the job, at an Amazon warehouse or elsewhere, you shouldn’t have to navigate the complex workers’ compensation process on your own. A single error or missed deadline can seriously harm your chances of getting the benefits you need for your work injury.

That’s where a workers’ compensation attorney can make a meaningful difference. Contact our office today.

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Sep 2018

The Cancer Risks Faced by Rhode Island Flight Attendants

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe job of a flight attendant comes with many obvious health challenges. Among them are:

  • Fatigue caused by night hours, unusual work shifts, jet lag and working across time zones
  • The poor air quality common in airplane cabins
  • Exposure to great numbers of the public who may be carrying germs and disease with them as they travel

Now, add to that list a greater risk of developing several types of cancer.

The Staggering Results From A Recent Study

A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that flight attendants had “a higher prevalence of every cancer that was examined,” including breast cancer, melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer. For the study, researchers surveyed 5,366 flight attendants in the United States, then compared the prevalence of cancer with a study involving about 5,000 U.S. residents in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

“Our findings of higher rates of several cancers among flight attendants is striking given the low rates of overweight and smoking in our study population, which highlights the question of what can be done to minimize the adverse exposures and cancers common among cabin crew,” the authors said in their study report.

Researchers recommended organizing the work schedules of flight attendants to limit the disruption of circadian rhythms and diminishing their exposure to cosmic ionizing radiation and called for additional study. They also noted that flight attendants can be exposed to chemical contaminants on airplanes, such as pesticides that are sometimes required to prevent the spread of disease between flight destinations.

“The (European Union) already evaluates radiation exposure among flight attendants, which our findings show may be an important step toward lowering cancer risk among this work population,” Eileen McNeely, co-director of Harvard’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, said in the press release.

If you’re a flight attendant who has been stricken with cancer, or anyone battling a work-related disease in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts, your life has been turned upside down by your situation. In addition to the physical, mental and emotional challenges, you may be trying to navigate the complicated legal world of workers’ compensation. The last thing you need in your life right now is more stress.

The workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl have experience handling cases just like yours, whether you are in Providence, Fall River or Foxborough. We will aggressively fight for your rights with both professionalism and compassion while you focus on what is most important – your health. We offer free case consultations while working on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing unless we win your case.

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Aug 2018

Returning to Work After a Back Injury

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyOne of the most important periods when recovering from a back injury occurs when someone first returns to work. Going back too soon, or doing something incorrectly, can result in a recurring injury.

That’s why it’s vital that workers understand when they can safely return to work and when they can resume normal duties.

Learning from EMTs

This topic was a recent point of focus on EMS1, a website devoted to the work of emergency medical technicians. While their advice is specifically worded for EMTs returning to work after a back injury, the article contains principles that can be applied to any physically demanding job. In fact, while these principles are geared toward those recovering from an injury, they can be helpful in preventing injuries in the first place.

Mobility is a crucial issue. The article warns EMTs that “before you can move patients, you must be able to move well yourself.” This is a good guide for any job that includes lifting and moving heavy objects. The first priority of a worker recovering from a back issue is preventing further damage. A worker that is not yet moving normally is not ready to handle the strain associated with his or her job. However, once lifting and carrying are viable options, workers need to keep some practices in mind.

Best Practices

  • Limit Lift Height: The farther an object must be lifted, the greater strain it will put on the body. Workers should avoid ever lifting an object directly from the floor to standing. This may require the use of available tools, or the worker may need to set the object in a new position and reset. Either way, “if your hands are on the floor for a lift, you’ve already lost.”
  • Avoid Bending: The practice of bending forward to grab a heavy object puts strain on the back. And the further forward one bends, the more shearing weight is placed on the spine. The worker’s head and chest should always be up with the back straight when lifting.
  • Stay Strong: The muscles used in lifting also help keep the spine, knees, and other body parts safe and properly aligned. Strengthening these muscles reduces the amount of strain a given lift places on them. This, in turn, reduces the possibility of injury. Exercise key muscles to ensure safe lifting practices.
  • Have Allies: It may be difficult to get the justice a worker needs, especially when that means collecting enough from workers’ compensation to stay out of the workplace until recovery is safely complete. Help and support are invaluable for a worker with an injury.

In the event that you are injured at work, you need an experienced attorney at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl on your side. Contact us today.

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Aug 2018

Addressing Violence in the Workplace

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyWhen workplace violence explodes, it leaves a trail of shattered lives. It also raises questions. Were warning signs missed? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy? In a touching essay, “The Day My Husband Didn’t Come Home From Work,” Jody LaVoie offers valuable insights as someone who has suffered the painful loss of a loved one to workplace violence.

LaVoie’s husband, Steve, was shot by a bitter employee who knew he was being demoted. Months later, Steve succumbed to his injuries. Besides Jody, he left behind three daughters.

Jody LaVoie writes that workplace homicides are rising – jumping an alarming 19.9 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total number of deaths was 500. Every year, 2 million American workers report they have been victims of workplace violence.

To minimize the risks of workplace violence, Jody LaVoie says employers should:

  1. Have a workplace violence policy that is shared with employees.
  2. Have and promote an employee assistance program.
  3. Host and support emotional wellness activities.
  4. Have a way to limit entrances and exits to the workplace, such as an electronic badge system.
  5. Have managers who take an active role in employee awareness, are alert to warning signs and know how to respond.
  6. Have a formal process for employee demotions and terminations.
  7. Have a system in place for employees to report threats, violence or imminent danger.
  8. Consider whether predictive behavior modeling – technology that analyzes data to generate a model that helps predict future outcomes – might be useful.
  9. Host emergency preparedness training, including active shooter training.

Unfortunately, despite workplace tragedies that make headlines on a regular basis, some employers lack the foresight to take steps that will protect their workers. Furthermore, they may continue risky work practices, such as maintaining low staffing levels that increase employee stress, or ignore warning signs, such as angry outbursts, that indicate some workers pose a threat.

If you’ve been the victim of workplace violence in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts, you are likely overwhelmed by your situation. You probably have questions about how workers’ compensation may apply to your case. Barely able to care for yourself, you may be under additional pressure from your employer or their insurance company to settle any claim for far less than you need or legally deserve.

The workers compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl have experience handling cases just like yours. They will aggressively protect your rights with professionalism and compassion. They offer free case consultations while working on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing unless they win your case.

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Jul 2018

Boston Sees Spike in Workplace Deaths

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe United States Department of Labor has released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data on 2016 workplace fatalities, and the greater Boston area is notable for a significant increase from the year before. In fact, Boston’s workplace fatalities in 2016 reached levels not seen since 2000.

This stood out in comparison to a much smaller increase that happened in workplace deaths across the nation, which resulted in a national workplace fatality count that reached over 5,000 for the first time since 2008.

A Local Spike

Wicked Local Westborough reports that Boston area workplace deaths have stayed under 50 per year for the last decade, reaching a low of just over 20 in 2012. 2015 came close, at nearly 50 workplace fatalities, but 2016 skyrocketed up to 75. Where the national average saw a 7 percent increase in workplace fatalities, Greater Boston saw a 56 percent increase.

Construction and extraction occupations claimed the most lives of any industry in Greater Boston, at 24 workplace fatalities. While transportation incidents were responsible for the largest number of workplace fatalities nationwide at 40 percent, other factors were of particular note in the Boston area. These included exposure to harmful substances or environments at 19 deaths, and violence and other injuries by persons or animals with 17 deaths.

The harmful substances category includes deaths related to unintentional overdose and the non-medical use of drugs and alcohol. Federal reports indicated a spike in these numbers due in part to opioid-related incidents. Within the category, the subcategory exposure to other harmful substances jumped from 5 to 16 fatalities.


Massachusetts has made strides to see these numbers change. With Gov. Baker extending OSHA protections to public-sector workers and recent laws raising the maximum fine for corporate manslaughter from $1,000 to $250,000, it is expected that we will begin to see more care taken to protect a larger range of employees. However, with a very small force of OSHA inspectors in the commonwealth, it may be difficult for the government to hold each employer directly responsible.

In this environment, it is deeply important that workers who are injured on the job hold their employers responsible quickly and effectively. You may be eligible for workers’ compensation. That’s why it’s best to speak to an attorney at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl to discuss your options.

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Jul 2018

Older Construction Workers at Risk of Hearing Loss

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyNot all job-related injuries are the same. Most are short-term: if you break your arm, for example, it’s put in a cast and you’re back at work in a matter of days or weeks. But other injuries are long-term and permanent, as pointed out in a recent study by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR).

As reported by Safety and Health Magazine, the center found 58 percent of former construction workers suffer from hearing loss. The study of 19,000 workers previously employed at Department of Energy nuclear power sites, based on data from the Building Trades Medical Screening Program, also uncovered factors that worsen the condition.

Report finds high risk of hearing loss among certain construction workers

Overall, the report said, the workers had “significantly increased risk of hearing loss compared to reference populations.” The study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, also found that:

  • Workers with more than 30 years of experience are nearly four times more likely to suffer from hearing loss than workers with fewer than 10 years on the job.
  • Workers who smoke are 18 percent more likely than nonsmokers to have hearing loss.
  • Workers who have the most exposure to solvent are 15 percent more likely to experience hearing loss than workers with the lowest exposure rates.

The fact is, hearing loss is a workplace injury. Some workers lose their hearing quickly when they are subjected to deafening noise at their work sites. Workers also can suffer hearing loss slowly over time, the result of years of exposure to machinery on the job. In many cases, employers fail to provide hearing safety training or protection, such as ear plugs or headphones, despite regulations and conditions that call for them.

The symptoms can go beyond hearing loss. Some people suffer from constant ringing in the ears and debilitating ear aches. In extreme cases, especially when subjected to sudden loud noises, such as explosions and other accidents, workers can suffer a ruptured ear drum and total hearing loss in one or both ears. All hearing injuries are permanent – they do not heal, and they can have a direct impact on the quality of your life for decades.

If you or a loved one has experienced workplace hearing loss, you likely are lost in the maze of local, state and federal regulations. Where do you turn for expert medical attention? Who do you know who understands the bureaucracy of workers’ compensation? Any advice you receive from your employer is self-serving since they are primarily interested in protecting themselves. Where do you turn for professional and compassionate assistance during your time of need? In Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, a workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has experience handling cases just like yours. An attorney can offer free case consultations while working on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing unless they win your case.

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Jun 2018

2017 Saw 11-Year High in Massachusetts Worker Deaths

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyOn April 27, a ceremony in honor of Workers’ Memorial Day was held on the steps of the State House in Boston. Each year, Workers’ Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who lose their lives on the job.

This year, however, the day also saw the release of a new study by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) in cooperation with the AFL-CIO, which identified 74 worker deaths in Massachusetts from January 2017 to March 1, 2018, marking an 11-year high in workplace deaths in our commonwealth.

Understanding the Numbers

WorkersCompensation.com explains the history and details of the 32-page report. Some selected details of concern include the fact that 74 deaths in Massachusetts amounts to a fatality rate of 2.1 for every 100,000 workers, the highest rate per year in over a decade. Fatal accidents occurred most often in the construction industry, which claimed 21 deaths – a full third of the total workplace fatalities for the year.

While the construction industry provided the most common setting for worker deaths, transportation was the most common cause. There were 31 workers killed in transportation incidents last year, including nine workers struck by vehicles and two fishermen who died at sea. One major factor in transportation deaths last year was a lack of seatbelt use, which contributed to a significant number of those 31 deaths.

Responses to the problem

It is incredibly difficult to monitor the safety of our workers as well as employees deserve in our current environment. With only 29 OSHA inspectors in the commonwealth, working under a system that is actively turning against workers on the federal level, it is impossible for them to visit every work site quickly and effectively enough to protect every worker. The report, however, outlined plans that could help, which includes the passing of two different bills already in existence which put much more accountability on employers to maintain and report on worker safety.

We will continue to monitor changes to the federal and Massachusetts laws and how they impact your rights as a member of our great workforce. We urge our lawmakers to take these 74 lost lives as a wake-up call and act to protect the people who keep our society and economy running. Already, we have seen the passage of state laws that extend OSHA regulations to the public sector, update corporate manslaughter laws, and protect pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace.

We are moving in the right direction, but we need to do more. Until every worker is protected from workplace injury, we will continue to fight for the rights of those hurt or killed on the job. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

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