A worker died on the eve of Labor Day as a crane was disassembled at Longwood Medical Area in Boston. The details of the accident remain unknown, but this event reminds us of the hazards involved in construction jobs and the burden placed on employers to maintain a safe workplace.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH) puts most of the responsibility for workplace safety on employers, who must take steps to ensure a safe environment and develop and enforce protocols that eliminate preventable accidents. Workers are required to follow protocols and to arrive at work sober, rested and capable of performing their duties.
When a workplace accident occurs that requires hospitalization or leads to a fatality, employers must file a report with OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employees can also reach out to OSHA to report unsafe conditions and are protected from employer retaliation by whistleblower laws. OSHA is required to inspect workplaces on a regular basis, but this may not happen at all construction sites, and may happen infrequently at permanent sites, such as factories, unless there is a serious accident or a large number of employee complaints.
In a case such as the Longwood crane accident, personal injury lawyers will begin by asking several key questions to determine whether or not the victim’s estate has a potential wrongful death suit.
- Were other employees following established safety rules? Under OSH, employers are liable when employees violate safety procedures or fail to use safety equipment. There may be a personal injury or wrongful death case for an employee who is killed or injured due to the actions of a fellow employee or supervisor.
- Were proper safety measures in place? This applies to the condition of equipment, safety equipment, safety protocols and training. Deficiencies in any of these areas could lead to liability for an employer.
- Were there unusual circumstances? As anyone in the construction industry knows, improvisation takes place almost daily. Equipment and people sometimes get pushed past their limits. In these cases, a personal injury lawyer will want to know if a reasonable person would have found the conditions dangerous. Examples can include employees working too quickly or working too many hours before an accident, or equipment use that exceeds manufacturer recommendations.
- Was the employee following established safety rules? An employee who is not using provided safety equipment, who uses safety equipment improperly or who personally violates safety protocols may not have a case, though there are exceptions. If training in safety rules is inadequate, if safety equipment fails or is inadequate or if an employee is ordered by a supervisor to violate safety rules, the employer could be liable. For safety equipment violations, there may be shared liability between the employer and the company that manufactured the safety equipment.
The emotional and financial burden an injury or death from a workplace accident can place on a family is undeniable. Employers may complicate matters and try to dismiss the rights of their injured or wrongfully killed employees and their families quickly, without proper compensation. Cases such as these can result in long, difficult legal battles.
At Sheff Law, we have attorneys experienced in handling these types of complicated cases – including other catastrophic crane collapse or malfunction cases – both in Massachusetts and other states. Our firm has a long history of fighting for the right of those hurt or killed on the job. If you have been hurt in a workplace accident, or if a loved one has been injured or killed, we encourage you to contact our expert team of Boston personal injury lawyers at 888-423-4477.