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Sleepy Boston “Big Dig” Construction Workers Not Eligible For Workers’ Compensation

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court says that Michael Haslam, a construction worker on Boston’s “Big Dig” freeway project, is not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for injuries he sustained when he fell asleep at the wheel while driving home after working for 27 hours straight. The court’s ruling reverses an earlier decision by the Industrial Accident Board.

The state’s highest court says that Haslam failed to prove that he needed to work as many hours as he did and that the circumstances surrounding his injury accident did not exempt him from the “going and coming rule,” which does not cover injuries sustained by workers when they are going to or coming from a job.

On August 3, 2001, Haslam started work at 5am. His shift was supposed to end at 3:30pm. Due to numerous work delays, however, the pouring of concrete did not take place until 1am the following day, and Haslam chose to stay because he needed to make sure that the job was done. He testified that if he hadn’t stayed, “I probably wouldn’t have had a job.”

He also said, however, that no one told him he had to stay. Also, the construction crew supervisor testified that he could have found someone else to replace Haslam if he had known that the foreman was so tired. Haslam’s contract stipulates that he cannot be made to work overtime.

Haslam drove home on August 4, 2001 at around 8 in the morning after working for 27 hours. He says that he was “totally exhausted” and fell asleep at the wheel. Haslam struck a utility pole and sustained injuries.

A 2004 ruling found that Haslam was entitled to workers’ compensation for his injuries because “the physical state that caused the accident arose directly out of and had presented itself while [the employee] was still on the job.”

The SJC court, however, agreed with the insurance company that argued that Haslam was not obligated to stay longer than his work shift and that the “going and coming rule” applied.

Sleepy Employee Hurt Driving Home Denied Mass. Workers’ Comp, Insurance Journal, April 9, 2008
SJC: Big Dig worker not entitled to workers’ comp, BostonHerald.com, April 8, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, The Big Dig
Department of Industrial Accidents, Labor and Workforce Development