When readers think of a construction accident in Worcester, they likely think of dramatic physical injuries. Neck and back injuries, crush injuries from heavy equipment and the like are, of course, all too common and leave workers with serious injuries. But there are other hazardous workplace conditions that can also cause damage and illness.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued a citation to a construction company for violations at a site here in Massachusetts. The problems had to do with workers’ exposure to lead and silica in the air during abrasive blasting. Not only did the company fail to provide the basic safety equipment required by law in such an environment — including eye protection and special clothing — but the respirators they did provide were not properly tested or cleaned after use.
Without adequate safety measures in place, silica exposure can lead to lung cancer, kidney disease and other conditions; lead, as is well known, can severely damage the nervous system as well as the reproductive and urinary systems. For exposing its employees to these substances, the company faces almost $48,000 in fines.
Getting slapped with an OSHA violation is no small matter for a business, but employees and their families may be left wondering: what about us? It may take time before symptoms associated with an occupational disease begin to show, and by that time the worker could be with any number of different employers. The good news is that workers’ compensation covers many types of exposure illnesses; workers can seek reimbursement for medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages, and may be able to access other benefits as well.
The bad news is that insurance companies may try to reduce, delay or even deny a workers’ compensation claim altogether. A legal professional can help fight for a worker’s rights, regardless of the type of injury suffered.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Office of Public Affairs, “Connecticut contractor cited by US Labor Department’s OSHA for 17 serious workplace health violations at Easthampton, Massachusetts, renovation site,” July 17, 2014