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Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

Every year in Massachusetts, hundreds of gas line accidents are caused by contractors, construction workers, and utility companies. In addition to being extremely dangerous, these accidents are costly and can lead to closed roads and other problems. In 2015, an explosion in Springfield injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings when a utility worker accidentally hit a high-pressure gas line. Unfortunately, these accidents occur with relative frequency. Although most incidents are contained, larger explosions can result in serious injuries and fatalities.

WWLP 22News launched an investigation into these accidents, reviewing state records and interviewing contractors and utility companies. The findings were shocking – between November 2012 and December 2015, a total of 1,434 gas line accidents were reported. That’s an average of more than one accident per day. Outside of Boston, Springfield and Chicopee had the highest reported number of accidents, with Springfield registering 48 and Chicopee registering 50. “There’s so many roads in Chicopee that are under construction, and more work being done, there’s more of an inherent chance that something might get hit,” said Mark Galerneau, Chicopee’s Fire Captain, “If the contractor is doing their due diligence and do what they’re supposed to do I think they can minimize the problems.”

The problem is, employers don’t always do their due diligence, and workers can suffer the consequences. If you have been injured due to employer negligence, it is in your best interest to consult with a MA work injury lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Hundreds of Violations Discovered

According to state records, adequate precautions were not taken in 522 of the reported gas line accidents, and the lines were incorrectly marked or not properly maintained in 413 of the accidents. And in many cases, Dig Safe was never called. Dig Safe is a communication network that exists to notify utility companies when excavation work will be performed near their installations, and state law requires that individuals and companies performing excavations call Dig Safe prior to beginning work. Although Dig Safe training is not mandatory, following established laws is. Fines for violating these laws include:

  • First offense: $1,000
  • Second or subsequent offenses within a 12-month period: $5,000 to $10,000

Follow OSHA Regulations to Avoid Gas Line Explosions

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has established excavation requirements to protect workers from accidentally causing damage to underground gas lines. Prior to beginning any type of excavation, workers should:

  • Establish the location of underground gas lines.
  • Contact appropriate utility companies or property owners to establish exact location of underground gas lines.
  • If utility companies or property owners do not respond to the request within 24 hours, workers may proceed with caution with the assistance of detection equipment.
  • Use a safe and acceptable method to determine the exact location of gas lines.
  • When the gas line is located, it should be protected, supported, or removed as deemed necessary for the protection of workers and the local area.

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A Florida-based event company, Walker International Events, has momentarily ceased all of its business and has been fined $24,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an investigation revealed multiple safety failures led to two deaths and multiple injuries when a tent collapsed in New Hampshire during a circus act in August of 2015.   In total, there were 14 total serious violations of workplace safety that were found as a result of the OSHA investigation. Primarily, the company most egregiously decided to go forward with their outdoor circus act, despite imminent and well-established thunder storms raging through the area.

The storm ultimately played a large role in the tent’s collapse, as did the company’s failure to properly set up the tent to adhere to OSHA’s workplace safety standards.

The fine and subsequent closing of the company (pending the creation of new safety regulations and standards) will do nothing to console those affected by the tragedy that claimed the lives of a child and their father and injured dozens more onlookers.

OSHA regulations exist to prevent these tragedies

No matter how unconventional or unexpected the setting, workers in America are put into dangerous situations every day, including circus workers and performers. These workers are all supposed to be properly protected by their employers, who are responsible for adhering to safety standards that ensure the workplace is as hazard-free as possible.  By choosing to ignore severe weather warnings and not properly constructing their tent, Walker International Events is complicit in the two deaths and dozens of injuries that resulted as a result of their negligence. In addition to the immediate implications this has for them financially and for their business, they will be liable for civil lawsuits from those affected by the incident as well.

All employers must take great care to not put their employees, or any civilians such as those coming to see a circus show, into any undue risk of injury or death. Failure to ensure this safety is simply unacceptable, and Walker International Events is learning that the hard way. Continue reading

Following an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a Wolcott, Connecticut contractor has been cited for multiple safety violations. When inspectors drove by a work site at 55 Rodgers Lane on May 4, 2016, they observed workers on the property’s roof, without proper fall protection gear. Although they were wearing safety harnesses, the harnesses were not connected to any type of anchor. The inspectors instructed the foreman to remedy the issue, and the workers immediately anchored their harnesses.

During a follow up visit two days later, and another on May 12, inspectors again found workers atop a roof with unanchored safety harnesses. An unanchored harness can actually be more dangerous than no harness at all; it provides a false sense of protection. “This employer exposed its employees deliberately to potentially deadly or disabling falls on multiple occasions, and has a history of fall-related violations at job sites in Connecticut. This is unacceptable,” said Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s local director. “Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work. That won’t change unless employers take seriously their responsibility to provide safe working conditions for their employees.”

OSHA cited M&M Roofing for multiple violations, including:

  • A willful violation for inadequate fall protection.
  • Failure to properly train employees on fall hazards.
  • Improper ladders for the job; for purposes of stability, ladders must extend a minimum of three feet above the next level. The contractor’s ladders did not.
  • Open, unguarded holes in the roof. In 2013 and 2014, OSHA cited M&M Roofing for similar violations at Manchester and Watertown work sites.
  • Failure to provide adequate ladder safety training for workers.
  • Failure to provide adequate eye and face protection for certain workers, specifically those who use pneumatic nail guns and a leaf blower.

For the above violations, OSHA proposed fines totalling $185,194.

Falls – Number One Cause of Construction-Related Fatalities

Of the 899 construction-related fatalities in 2014, 345 were due to falls. In every one of these cases, the death was preventable. OSHA’s “Fall Prevention Campaign” is a great resource for how to prevent serious injuries and deaths due to falls. The campaign includes three main points:

  • Plan ahead: Before the start of any project, employers must determine how the job will be accomplished, what tasks will be involved, and what safety gear and equipment is needed for each task. Cost estimates should include safety equipment.
  • Provide appropriate gear and equipment: Every job requires different equipment. For example, ladders must extend at least three feet about the next level. Some jobs require scaffolds, some do not. Rooftop workers should use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), but it’s equally important to make sure the harness fits, is in good working order, and is always anchored.
  • Train workers on safe use of equipment: The best safety equipment in the world is useless if the user doesn’t know how it works. Workers should be trained in proper set up and use of all equipment, including ladders and scaffolds, and fall protection systems.

If you are concerned about unsafe working conditions at your place of employment, you can contact OSHA on their toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA. If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact a MA work injury lawyer today. Continue reading

A tragic accident in Duxbury on Saturday left a 28-year-old man dead. Jason Sanderson, of Carver, was using a chop saw when the saw kicked back, striking him in the neck. Sanderson was rushed to the hospital with a severe neck wound, an injury that later proved fatal. Sanderson died at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Plymouth.  Sanderson and another worker were excavating an underground water line during the construction of a new home at 900 Tremont Street. In a statement, Duxbury Police Sergeant Dennis Symonds, said the accident occurred around 2 p.m. on Saturday.

According to investigators, the chop saw Sanderson was using “became bound”, then popped back, making contact with his throat. The company Sanderson was working for has not been released. The incident is currently under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Duxbury Police Department. No foul play is suspected. If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, contact a MA work injury lawyer today.

Common Causes of Construction Injuries and Death

According to a recent study conducted by Oxford University scientists, when a young person suffers even one concussion, it can have long-term consequences. Head trauma can have a permanent impact on mental and physical health. This risk is greatly increased with multiple head traumas, but new evidence that even a single concussion can have catastrophic, life-long effects is alarming.

The study – the largest of its kind, to date – focused on individuals who suffered head trauma under the age of 25. The medical data covered a 40-year period, and the results of the study were startling. Young people who experience a single diagnosed concussion have:

  • A greater chance of receiving disability benefits
  • A greater chance of receiving mental health treatment
  • A lesser chance of graduating from high school than siblings
  • A lesser chance of attending college than siblings
  • Twice the risk of early death when compared to siblings without head injuries

In addition to the above results, the study also found that outcomes were better for those young people who suffered a concussion before the age of 15. In early childhood, the brain is more resilient than for young adults. For those who suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries, long-term consequences increased greatly. This new evidence is of special concern for families of children who participate in high-impact sports, such as football and rugby. Head injuries in young people are usually the result of sports injuries or motor vehicle accidents. If you are suffering from a head injury, contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today.

How to Identify a Concussion
A concussion may not be immediately obvious following a car accident or sports injury. Look for the signs and symptoms below if you or a loved one has experienced any type of head trauma.

  • Loss of consciousness immediately after the injury
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Severe headache or headache that won’t go away
  • Fatigue or drowsiness

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In 2014, a deadly blaze in the Back Bay killed two firefighters and injured several others. The house fire, which was unintentionally caused by welders working at an adjacent building, quickly grew out of control due to high winds. Last week, Joseph Finn, Commissioner for the Boston Fire Department, held a press conference to release the results of an investigation conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). According to the NIOSH report, the 2014 accident was a result of a “perfect storm” of problems. Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.

The two firefighters killed in the Back Bay fire were 43-year-old Lt. Edward Walsh and 33-year-old Michael Kennedy. NIOSH’s report criticized the fire department for lack of training and inadequate staffing, both of which may have contributed to the accident’s devastating outcome. NIOSH also attributed the tragic outcome to high winds and the fact that firefighters were not notified in time. Several windows and doors were open at the time of the blaze, which allowed high winds to blow into the open spaces causing a backdraft. Fire consumes oxygen. If a fire has consumed all oxygen within a space and more oxygen suddenly becomes available (through an open door, window, or other opening), the explosive reaction is called a backdraft.

According to Finn, “People were literally blown off their feet.” Adding to the unfortunate events, water was cut off to the house when the fire burned through the hose lines.

The NIOSH report included a review of contributing factors, as well as several proposed fixes to prevent similar catastrophic events in the future. In response to the criticism from NIOSH, Finn said, “I’m OK with the critical part. I don’t take offense to it.” However, he also said that the department had recognized the need for additional training and had devoted more time to training in the two years preceding the fire than in the previous 10 years.

Not the First Time

Multiple high-profile cases in recent years have brought the Boston Fire Department under fire.

  • In 2009, a fatal fire truck crash was blamed on inadequate training when a BFD firefighter slammed into a building on Huntington Avenue.
  • Multiple fire trucks were cited for faulty brakes and other parts in 2009, resulting in several trucks being pulled out of service and the fire safety chief’s termination for absenteeism.
  • The flawed tactical decisions of BFD supervisors were to blame for the death of two firefighters in a 2007 West Roxbury restaurant blaze. Their actions resulted in a backdraft that sent a giant fireball through the building.

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Several people were injured on Tuesday when a temporary construction wall collapsed in the Boston suburb of Malden. The collapse, which occurred in front of a Japanese restaurant on Pleasant Street, trapped 5 people before dozens of witnesses lifted the wall, freeing the victims. A mother, her husband, and their toddler were among the victims. The mother received non-life threatening injuries. Fortunately, her son was not seriously hurt. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

According to Malden police Capt. Glenn Cronin, the collapse was likely due to a strong gust of wind. Deepti and Sudhir Soni were trapped under the fallen wall with their 2-year-old son. The mother was taken to the hospital immediately following the incident. Sudhir Soni reported that his wife was diagnosed with a C1 spinal cord fracture. She will need to wear a collar until the injury heals. The family was walking on the Pleasant Street sidewalk when the plywood barrier collapsed. According to witnesses, the toddler’s stroller frame protected him from serious injury.

“I Wouldn’t Wish It On Anybody”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently assisting local authorities with the investigation. In addition to the family of three, two other women, Albertina Pierre and Maureen Finn, were also injured. Pierre’s son said his mother was crying. “She was like ‘Isaiah I could have died,’” he said. Finn also recounted the traumatic experience. “It was so heavy it was unbelievable, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” she said. “I had walked by it several times, I thought it would be light, but it just crushed all of us.” Paul Frazer, who was in a nearby jewelry store, was one of many witnesses who rushed out to help when the wall collapsed. “We didn’t know what happened so we just kind of ran out there and we saw some people underneath, we heard a baby crying, just tried to lift it up and get the people out from underneath,” he said.

You Just Never Know

Fortunately, nobody suffered life-threatening injuries in Tuesday’s incident. However, it serves as a good reminder that ‘freak accidents’ can happen at any time, in any place. Living in the city, most of us walk past temporary construction walls and scaffolding multiple times each day. While the vast majority of these structures are sound, exceptions do exist. In fact, a similar incident occurred last week when construction staging collapsed in the North End, injuring a worker. Always use caution when walking beside, or under, these types of temporary structures. Unfortunately, when they do fall or collapse, injuries are common and can be serious or even fatal. This year, multiple scaffolding and staging collapses resulted in fatalities in New York City, Houston, and Raleigh, N.C. Continue reading

The decision to file a lawsuit for wrongful death is typically made in the wake of tragedy. Negligence leading to wrongful death can occur in the form of medical malpractice, defective products, catastrophic vehicle accidents, and work-related accidents, to name a few. The categories of losses to be paid by the defendant – known as damages – vary from state to state. Survivors representing the victim’s estate may receive compensation for three different categories of losses – economic damages, non-economic damages, and  punitive damages.

Economic Damages

Any financial losses suffered from the event of the victim’s death are considered economic damages. Medical expenses incurred by the victim’s family can range from one-time emergency room costs to long-term nursing care and pharmaceutical costs prior to the victim’s death. Reimbursement for funeral expenses may also be included. A lesser-known kind of economic damage exists in the form of lost income and may include:

  • Loss of benefits (medical coverage, pension plans)
  • Loss of expected earnings
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of the value of goods and services that would have been provided had the victim not died

Non-Economic Damages

Sometimes referred to as “pain and suffering” damages, these are the more intangible losses suffered by a wrongful death victim’s family members. Although these factors are more difficult to place a value on, they are often more devastating than economic damages.

  • Compensation for mental anguish (pain and suffering)
  • Loss of the victim’s care, protection, guidance, and nurturing
  • Loss of the victim’s love and companionship
  • Loss of consortium from the deceased partner

Recently ignited debate within the legal community focuses on each state’s choice to place caps on non-economic damages. Because this type of compensation is “higher-priced” yet less concrete than financial-based damages, lawmakers are calling for a re-evaluation of the constitutionality of these cap statutes. Today, 38 states uphold caps at varying levels. Massachusetts’ non-economic damages cap is $500,000, unless a jury specifically pronounces that amount to be unfairly low in relation to losses suffered by the victim’s representative. Continue reading

Falls to a lower level are the number one cause of construction-site fatalities. With proper safety training, site maintenance and the right equipment, these accidents are largely preventable. In order to educate construction workers and employers about these dangers and reduce annual construction-site injuries and fatalities, OSHA has enacted a national fall prevention campaign.

OSHA’s campaign serves to educate and raise awareness about falls from high places, such as roofs, ladders, and scaffolds. Of 828 total construction-related fatalities in 2013, 291 were due to falls.  OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Occupational Research Agenda to educate as many construction workers and employers as possible. By following three simple steps, construction-site falls can be easily prevented. Continue reading

In October of 2014, three Massachusetts roofers were hospitalized following a scaffolding accident that took place at their worksite. The accident in question was easily preventable, considering the fact that these three men were standing atop a plank of spruce that was very clearly marked as being unsafe for scaffolding use. The plank broke, causing the three roofers to fall over two stories to the ground. Their collective and individual injuries were extensive, of which included injuries to the eye, spine, face, chest, rib fractures, broken bones, broken ribs, and a punctured lung. The company that employed these men had been in violation of various safety codes in the past—a lesson they apparently did not learn from. Continue reading