Many construction projects get underway during the summer in Massachusetts, including those to improve the roadways. Generally, the signs illuminating work zones are quite obvious-drivers are advised to slow their speeds and given various directions through different signage and these measures are taken not just for the safety of the drivers but also for the construction workers. Unfortunately, when the warnings are not taken seriously, construction workers can get injured in a construction site accident.
Much has been said about an employer's obligations to create a safe working environment for their employees. This means a working environment free from serious hazards, and one that follows the standards are rules created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA requires that employees find and correct safety and health problems. This is done by making changes to the working conditions, such as switching to safer chemicals, rather than simply relying on personal protective gear to reduce the risk of injuries or illnesses.
The construction site fall that left workers injured in Massachusetts discussed in last week's blog highlights one of the most common types of injuries suffered in construction site accidents -- those caused by falls. Construction workers experienced 4.3 non-fatal injuries and illnesses per 100 workers, amounting to more than 9 percent of the 3.3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses experienced in a year. Of the reported injuries and illnesses, falls accounted for more than 22 percent. When a worker is injured at a worksite during the course of their employment, they may be able to file a workers' compensation claim to cover their medical expenses.
Though some workplaces are definitely more dangerous than others, this does not mean that an employer is excused from their obligation of removing hazards and minimizing risks in that place. Even where it is not possible to remove all possible dangers, employers need to take steps to educate their workers about them and train them as to how to avoid them. This is the employer's duty. The employer must create a safe working environment and when this duty is neglected, a workplace accident that could lead to serious workplace injuries is often the result.
Even though a worker injured on the job has the right to file a workers' compensation claim with their employer, the reality is that many employees may hesitate to do so. This is because they are afraid they might lose their job as a result. Already an employee is struggling their injury, with taking time off of work and either losing out on a project or promotion to someone else who-add to this the anxiety of a workers' compensation claim and an injured employee is likely to balk.
A recent ruling by a federal appeals court regarding a fine imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations may significantly affect workers' compensation law in Massachusetts.
Readers of this blog may be aware that when they are injured on the job in Massachusetts, they may be able to receive workers' compensation benefits from their employer. However, there is an important aspect to keep in mind-one must be eligible to receive them. How does one determine eligibility?
When one is injured on the job, the last thing they may want to do is hold their employer accountable through a workers' compensation claim. However, most employees do not realize they are barred from filing any other form of claim against their employer and, as a result, may give up their right to get the compensation they legally deserve for an injury they have sustained while performing their jobs. On the other side, rather than file a claim, an accident victim may find it easier and be more relieved if offered a settlement and may end up getting less compensation than they deserve and need in the long run.
As most Massachusetts' residents prepare to bunker down in their homes during the winter, many others take to the streets to make it safer for others to travel to and from work. But, as one can imagine, snow and ice make for unsafe working conditions and certain precautions must be taken to ensure that workers exposed to extreme conditions do not get injured or contract an illness.
Workers may often feel like they are under their employer's thumb and cannot question or challenge any of the unsafe or dangerous decisions made by their employers, but this is not the case. Massachusetts employees, along with those across the country, have various rights that they can enforce to ensure their workplace is free from hazards.