Articles Posted in Construction Site Accidents

1638064_s.jpgWe have all looked forward to Spring this year, waiting for those snowbanks to finally melt so we can drive and walk and ride our bikes more easily. But we will face other challenges soon as construction projects return to the roads.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is now being observed by safety officials across the country. The annual campaign is held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway work zones and construction sites. The goal is to protect drivers, passengers, construction workers and others from injuries.

Drivers

  • Drivers and passengers are at the greatest risk in a construction zone, accounting for an average of 85 percent of the deaths in highway work zone crashes, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
  • In 2010, 576 people died in work zone crashes, the equivalent of one work zone fatality every 15 hours in this country, according to FHA.

Construction Workers

  • Construction workers face many risks on highway work zones. In 2013, 105 construction workers died at road construction sites in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Other injuries are not included in this figure.
  • Transportation accidents accounted for 66 percent of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries in 2013. In 69 percent of these cases, a pedestrian worker was struck by a vehicle. Backing vehicles out accounted for 27 of the 48 pedestrian vehicular accidents.

Safety Reminders for Drivers

  • Move Over. It’s the law in Massachusetts and most other states. Make sure you move over when you see construction signs and lights. And if additional room is not available, slow down.
  • No Speeding. In Massachusetts, you can face double the original fine for speeding in a work zone and cause a serious car accident.
  • No Distracted Driving. Pay extra attention to the roads as you travel through work zones; reduce distractions in your car from information systems and passengers.
  • No Cell Phone Use. Eliminate distracted driving. Do not use your cell phone to text, check e-mail or social media. If you need to use your phone, use a hands-free system.
  • Expect the Unexpected. You may not have any notice of a work zone until you are stuck in it. Be patient and be prepared to follow the signs and traffic cops and flaggers. This may mean not following the traffic signals at times.
  • Pay Attention to the Signs and Look for Alternate Routes. Look for signs which direct you to detour routes and share other important information. Do not use your GPS until you are safely outside of the construction work zone.
  • Mass511. The state’s traffic information system may help you avoid construction areas. Visit the webpage or call.

Safety Reminders for Pedestrians

  • Use crosswalks in construction areas if it is safe to do so. If not, follow pedestrian pathways which have been marked by the construction operation.
  • Watch how traffic flows before you step out into the street. You may be able to identify a safer path.
  • If you know you will be walking through a work zone, consider carrying a neon glow vest and wear it as you cross a street. You want to stand out to road traffic, police officers and flaggers and the construction crew.

Safety Reminders for Cyclists

  • Cyclists want to learn about roadway construction ahead of time. After all, there is nothing much worse than a mile of recently milled black top to shake your fillings loose. Call the local town or city hall or call the Mass511 service.
  • Some of the cycling clubs in the Boston area also do a good job of alerting members of safety issues. One popular source of information is the Charles River Wheelmen’s safety articles. Look for cycling clubs in your area and ask if they offer a members forum or a newsletter.

Safety Reminders for Construction Workers

  • Be vigilant about following OSHA and other safety procedures of your profession.
  • If you are working on foot, make sure you are always aware of any vehicles around you and where there are flaggers and traffic cops.

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masscosh-report-2014.jpgA new report shares hard numbers for Massachusetts workers. In 2013, 50,000 workers were seriously injured on the job and 48 others were killed in workplace accidents. An estimated 480 workers also died from occupational disease, such as cancer from workplace exposure to hazardous materials.

The 2014 “Dying for Work in Massachusetts” report has been released by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which organize the annual Workers’ Safety Memorial Day. On April 28, workers, families of victims, advocates and state officials gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the 26th annual observance.

48 Workers Killed in 2013. The construction industry remains one of the most dangerous, with 11 workers killed in construction accidents in 2013. Workplace falls killed nine workers, causing one-fifth of all occupational fatalities in Massachusetts. Nine other Massachusetts workers were killed by machines and equipment. Workplace violence took the lives of five more workers, including a teacher, a police officer, a livery driver and two store workers.

constructionworker v2.jpgA new pilot study measures the physical and emotional toll on New England’s construction workers – and researchers say more investigation is needed.

Construction workers face a high risk of physical injury on the job. In 2011, these workers accounted for 12 percent of all workplace deaths in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Construction accidents and injuries can happen when employers or construction site managers are negligent in complying with OSHA and other safety regulations, fail to properly staff a job or do not provide the necessary training.

The new study from Harvard School of Public Health shows 20 percent of the construction workers surveyed showed signs of being at risk for suicide. More than 40 percent had suffered one or more workplace injuries in the prior month.

The study was published online Oct. 1 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers say the findings show more detailed studies are needed to provide a better understanding of the high frequency of construction injuries and how they relate to mental distress. Researchers also want to focus on increasing literacy rates among construction workers and preventing suicide and suicide attempts.

Study Findings
In August 2012, the researchers surveyed 172 New England construction workers whose average age was 41 years old. They were questioned about psychological distress, depression, anxiety, job satisfaction, musculoskeletal use, injuries and alcohol and tobacco use.

Of these workers, 75 percent had experienced musculoskeletal pain over the past three months. In the month prior, 42 percent had reported one or more work injuries. When researchers followed up by phone with workers who fit the criteria for depression, 20 percent showed signs of being at risk for suicide. Some 16 percent reported they were distressed but the majority – nearly 60 percent – had sought no professional help.

When proper precautions are not taken, construction workers face numerous risks for physical injury and death. The most common causes are falls, electrocution, being struck by an object and being caught in or between equipment and buildings, according to the BLS. Nearly three out of every five construction workers are killed by one of these causes.

Here in Massachusetts
Here in Massachusetts, construction workers face the same risks. In 2012, 32 workers died on the job, including six construction workers, according to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), which reports figures annually each spring.

Over the summer, the state saw three tragedies. In August, a tree worker died from burn injuries in Holliston, after coming into contact with live wires. A week earlier, another tree worker suffered serious electrical burns in Chelmsford when he was hit by branches and live wires. In July, a 26-year-old construction worker was killed at a Plymouth construction site when a concrete form collapsed and crushed him beneath wooden frames.

MassCOSH is starting to collect new data on other risks to construction and other workers. In its most recent “Dying for Work” publication, it reported 320 Massachusetts workers died from occupational diseases. It estimated asbestos exposure caused over 90 deaths that year.

Related:
Construction workers struggle with pain, stress from injuries, Harvard School of Public Health.

Dying for Work in Massachusetts, April 28, 2013, MassCOSH
MassCOSH website.
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worker-electrical-200.jpgFifty eight workers lost their lives on the job last year in Massachusetts. The average fine in closed investigations into those deaths was less than $7,000.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) released the figure in its annual report at Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28. In “Dying for Work in Massachusetts,” the group reported firefighters and construction workers again account for the majority of workplace deaths in Massachusetts. The group called for reforms such as strengthening OSHA regulations to prevent construction accidents and passing new state laws to protect temporary workers.

“It is deplorable that so many workers still die or are severely injured in workplace accidents,” said Boston personal injury lawyer David White of Breakstone, White & Gluck. “Employers must be held accountable when they fail to follow safety requirements and cause injuries or deaths.”

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a proud sponsor of MassCOSH, an organization with a great reputation for protecting workers and improving workplace safety.

In 2011 in Massachusetts, the average fine in the death of a worker was $6,490. MassCOSH said this low cost encourages employers to disregard OSHA regulations.

The group noted there is no consistent trend in the number of worker deaths. But in 2011, the number of workers lives’ lost rose 11, up from 47 in 2010.

Thirteen firefighters died in 2011, two as the result of injuries sustained while responding to fires. Another firefighter was crushed while performing routine vehicle maintenance. Ten others died due to work-related cancer and heart disease.

Construction accidents accounted for eight wrongful deaths. Deaths were also reported in the human services and commercial fishing industries.

MassCOSH reports workers are dying in four ways: motor vehicle accidents and incidents; construction falls; workplace violence and drowning. Falls from ladders, roofs and trees accounted for 20 percent of all workplace deaths. Construction accidents were involved in 14 percent of workplace deaths, including three men who were killed in electrocutions and explosions.

MassCOSH Reforms
The advocacy organization for workers’ rights is calling on state and federal lawmakers to make a number of changes. These include:

Proposed Changes at the Federal Level:

  • Strengthen OSHA regulations, with one measure including criminal prosecution.
  • Overhaul OSHA’s system for regulating toxic chemicals.
  • Better protect immigrant workers by increasing the number of bilingual investigators.
  • Improve whistleblower protections.

Proposed Changes at the State Level:

  • Full implementation of Executive Order 511, so all state agencies have committees which ensure national health and safety standards are being met.
  • Make improvements to Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws so coverage is provided to all injured workers.
  • Pass the “Temporary Worker Right to Know Law,” which would increase state oversight and ensure that temporary workers are provided written notice of job assignments, supervisors, wages and other key details.

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Ruling Confirms Rights of Injured Workers to Bring Third Party Claims Against General Contractor after Receiving Workers’ Compensation Insurance

The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) today affirmed the right of an employee of an uninsured subcontractor to bring third party claims against the general contractor, even if the general contractor has made workers’ compensation payments pursuant to G.L. c. 152, § 18. The case was an important victory for workers injured in construction accidents.

The case arose from an explosion on a residential construction site. The explosion killed a worker and seriously injured his son, who was also working at the site. Both men were employed by Great Green Barrier Co., which did not have workers’ compensation insurance. As a result, pursuant to G.L. c. 152, § 18, the general contractor, Henry C. Becker Custom Building Ltd., was liable for the workers’ compensation obligations. This obligation arises under the policy in Massachusetts that a general contractor is responsible to hire only subcontractors which have workers’ compensation insurance available for their employees.

The defendant argued that the statutory scheme prevented the plaintiffs from making third party claims once they had accepted lump sum workers’ compensation settlements pursuant to G.L. c. 152, § 23, which ordinarily bars workers from maintaining negligence claims against their employers if they have accepted workers’ compensation benefits. While this argument had persuaded the trial court, which granted summary judgment for the defendant, the ruling had been overturned by the Appeals Court. Wentworth v. Henry C. Becker Custom Bldg. Ltd, 76 Mass.App.Ct. 507 (2010).

The SJC granted further appellate review and affirmed the Appeals Court ruling, which reversed the summary judgment for the defendant.

Click here for more information on this case.
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Every year, Massachusetts families and organizations come together to honor the men and women who are killed and injured while on the job. This year, on April 28, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and the Greater Boston Labor Council are co-sponsoring Workers’ Memorial Day and are publishing the 2011 report: Dying for Work in Massachusetts: Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces.

“It is critical that Massachusetts employers improve the safety of their workplaces to protect their workers. The high rate of death and injury on the jobsite is still taking a horrible toll on Massachusetts workers and their families. It is also unfortunate that enforcement continues to suffer budget cuts,” said Boston personal injury lawyer David White.

As stated in this sobering report, its purpose is to “highlight the fact that work continues to kill and maim workers in epidemic and alarming numbers. The saddest aspect to this loss in lives and limbs is that work-related injuries and illness are preventable.”

The report describes in clear detail the tragedy facing Massachusetts workers and their families. In 2010 alone, 47 Massachusetts workers lost their lives while on the job. (Breakstone, White and Gluck has the privilege and honor of representing the family of one of these deceased workers in their claim for his pain and suffering and wrongful death while on the job.)

The top three causes of fatalities among Massachusetts workers in 2010 were transportation (12 deaths: drivers or workers on roads involved in motor vehicle accidents and plane/helicopter crashes), falls (9 deaths: half being construction site accidents), and commercial fishing (4 deaths).

On Workers’ Memorial Day, we honor the fallen by demanding stronger workplace health and safety protections under the Occupational Health & Safety Administration, because it is every person’s right to be safe in their own work environment.

Join us on Thursday April 28, 2011 from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. outside the Massachusetts State House as we mourn for the dead and fight for the living.

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a proud sponsorof MassCOSH, an organization with a great reputation for protecting workers and improving workplace safety. 

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Breakstone, White & Gluck congratulates MassCOSH for its tireless advocacy of a new law which bans flammable floor finishing product in Massachusetts. The law takes effect today.

The law bans the commercial use and sale of lacquer sealer, which can easily ignite and is linked to three deaths of floor finishers in house fires.

“This groundbreaking law will save lives and end floor finishing fires that have caused so much pain and destruction,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of MassCOSH (the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health).

Massachusetts workplace accidents and the lives they claim were the focus today at the Workers’ Memorial Day Commemoration and Rally at the Massachusetts State House. The event honored the 62 workers killed on the job in Massachusetts last year. Organizers called for workplace safety improvements to prevent more injuries and deaths.

The names of the victims of workplace accidents were read aloud at the beginning of the rally, and a moment of silence honored the men and women, as well as their families.

names-being-read

In a report on Massachusetts workplace accidents released today, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) said for every worker killed on the job, 10 more die from occupational disease. Massachusetts workplace accidents resulting in death in 2009 included:

  • 6 servicemen and women who died as a result of the war in Iraq

 

  • 9 construction accident deaths

 

  • 7 fishing accident deaths

 

  • 11 deaths among Massachusetts firefighters

 

  • 11 transportation accident deaths

 

  • 6 workplace violence deaths

 

MassCOSH, which co-sponsored today’s rally with the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Greater Boston Labor Council, estimated 1,800 Massachusetts workers were diagnosed with cancers caused by workplace exposures last year. Another 50,000 Massachusetts workers reported serious personal injuries.

There are currently several efforts to prevent Massachusetts workplace accidents. Last Workers’ Memorial Day, Governor Deval Patrick issued an executive order establishing health and safety committees in all state agencies. But MassCOSH said a glaring problem that still must be changed is that Massachusetts’ public sector employees are not covered under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) like private sector workers.

Among other recommendations, MassCOSH calls on the state to be more proactive and to protect temporary workers by passing the Employment Agency Bill (Senate Bill 2364). This bill will require employment agencies to provide written notice about key details of job assignments, the work site employer, the type of work to be done, the right to workers’ compensation and other important information. We believe this bill is especially important in light of this economic time.

MassCOSH’s complete report is titled, “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: Loss of Life and Limb in Masachusetts Workplaces.” It is available from MassCOSH.

Boston attorney David White (below) attended the rally on behalf of the firm.

DW-at-rally-1

Breakstone, White & Gluck, a Massachusetts workplace accident law firm, supports MassCOSH and its work to improve Massachusetts workplace safety, inspections and enforcement.

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James Delayo, the former chief crane inspector for New York City, has plead guilty to accepting more than $10,000 in bribes to fake inspections and crane operator licensing test results.  Delayo has admitted to accepting bribes between 2002 and 2008 to file paperwork indicating that a Long Island-based crane company had passed inspections that never happened and to say an employee passed a licensing exam never taken.  For these and other favors, Delayo received from $200 to $3000 in individual payoffs.  An official and employee with the involved Long Island crane company, Nu-Way Crane Service, have plead not guilty to bribery and record tampering.  Delayo is currently out on bail until his sentencing on May 4th. His plea deal calls for two to six years in prison.

Delayo was arrested back in 2008 after the second of two serious construction accidents caused by massive cranes collapsing. The accidents caused the wrongful deaths of nine people. Authorities said at the time that Delayo’s case was one in a series of cases against builders and inspectors accused of accepting tainted money.  Consistent with that claim, Delayo is not the only person in trouble after the 2008 crane collapses.  A crane rigging contractor has been charged with manslaughter for one collapse and a crane owner and former mechanic have been charged with manslaughter for the other collapse.  Since the 2008 accidents, New York City building officials have made changes to crane training requirements and exam procedures for some operators.  Additionally, some inspections are now performed by a national group.

To see additional coverage of this story, see this Boston Globe article.

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently reviewed a case in which the defendant homeowner, Johnson, hired a contractor to remove several trees from her land. The contractor subsequently hired a subcontractor/crane operator, West, to help with the project. The crane was damaged during the work, and the crane operator sued the homeowner. The jury found in his favor. His case was before the Appeals Court to determine whether the homeowner was liable for his damages.

Johnson had several conversations with the general contractor about the exact location of her septic system, which was important for him to know in order to safely remove the trees. The contractor apparently conveyed information about the septic system to his subcontractor, the crane operator. The day the crane arrived, Johnson noticed that it was set up in the location of the septic system. Though she was a surprised, she did not interfere with his work.

Soon after, the crane’s outrigger pierced the septic system and the crane tipped over, causing damage to the crane and to the house. The crane operator sued Johnson, cliaming that she had a duty to warn him about the septic system.

The Appeals Court determined there was no duty. Even though Johnson may have been suspicious of the crane’s placement, she did not have a further duty to give warnings. She retained no control over the work in general, and crane operator’s work in particular. Her only duty to the general contractor was to give accurate information about the septic system, which she did. It was the responsibility of the original contractor to oversee the actions of the crane operator.

Accordingly, the crane operator’s case was dismissed. The case is West v. Johnson, Mass. App. Ct. No. 08-P-130 (2009). 

As a homeowner, how can I protect myself from these types of lawsuits?

An important consideration in determining liability is control: the less control you have over a situation, the less likely it is that you will be liable for damages. One of the many benefits of hiring a general contractor to help with a residential construction project is the shift of liability from you to the contractor. If a contractor agrees to oversee all aspects of subcontractor performance, the homeowner will likely have no direct contractual agreements with the subcontractors and, therefore, retain no control over their work.

Before hiring a contractor, be proactive. Ensure that they are registered with the state, and are carrying adequate insurance. Review the details of your contract, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask for proof of his/her registration and insurance certificates. Browse the additional links below for more tips on how to choose a contractor. 

Additional links:

Homeowners FAQ’s – The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
Choosing a Professional Contractor – The Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry

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