Articles Tagged with workplace accident

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In July 2015, an ironworker was seriously injured in the course of his employment when he fell 40 feet at the central parking garage at Logan Airport. Investigators revealed that the worker had fallen onto a piece of precast concrete that had also fallen.  The 53-year-old man, a resident of Connecticut, was transported by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital where he underwent treatment for life-threatening injuries

The investigation into the incident revealed that a 32-ton piece of concrete fell while it was being hoisted by a crane, as part of the garage construction.  The worker was apparently attempting to secure the panel when he fell.  All work at the construction site was halted pending an investigation by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  OSHA is the federal agency charged with overseeing compliance with Federal Safety Regulations under 29 CFR 1910.

This incident highlights the perils faced by construction site workers.  What many do not know is that workers injured during the course of scope of their employment not only have rights under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 152, the so-called “workers compensation statute”, but they may also have a cause of action against both the general contractor on the site as well as any sub-contractors whose negligence was a contributing factor in causing the injury.  While an employee is generally unable to file a civil lawsuit against their own employer due to the exclusivity provisions of M.G.L. Ch. 152, this statute does not prohibit the injured party from pursuing a claim or lawsuit against non-employer responsible parties.

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“The Bacon Davis Act” sets prevailing wages for federal contractor jobs, and the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law (G.L. c. 149, §§ 26 – 27,) sets wages for certain jobs involving the state or local governments. Under this law, payments by employers to health and welfare plans, pension plans and supplemental unemployment benefit plans under collective bargaining agreements or understandings between organized labor and employers are included in the wage rates.

Prevailing wage applies equally to unionized and non-unionized workers. All employees who perform work on a public works project must be paid the rate per hour according to the schedule issued for the particular project.

This is significant for workers injured on prevailing wage job-site.  Normally, an injured workers’ average weekly wage is determined by the prior 52 weeks worked; however, if an employee is injured on a prevailing wage job, the prior 52 weeks worked is not an accurate representation of the injured employee’s potential earning. For Union employee’s this is important due to the fact that their benefits package is not normally a part of the calculations of their average weekly wage; except when working on a prevailing wage job-site.

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Many employers have complained about the nuisance and cost of certain workplace safety regulations.  While the effectiveness of any regulation must continually be evaluated, there is no question that government regulations requiring safety compliance have reduced the number of workplace injuries and deaths.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) publishes commonly used statistics regarding workplace injuries.  Sadly, there were 4,585 reported worker fatalities in 2013.  As noted, that equates to an average of 12 per day.   Eight hundred and seventeen (817) of these fatalities were Hispanic or Latino workers.  One in five of the fatalities involved construction accidents.   See https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html.

No amount of money can make up for a lost loved one.  But pursuing all possible benefits may lessen the financial toll.  Family of workers’ killed and injured employees may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Such payments may not be sufficient to make up for lost wages and lost fringe benefits during a disability.  Moreover, workers who are self-employed or work as independent contractors may have difficulty even qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits.

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