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OSHA and Workers’ Compensation Cases

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the United States Department of Labor (DOL), is a federal agency responsible for assuring safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women in the United States. OSHA was established by U.S. Congress through the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970. OSHA sets out to accomplish its task through enforcing workplace regulation, compiling statistical data, and training employers on how to maintain a safe work environment.

While it is not necessary for an injured employee to prove that his or her employer was negligent in order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, as OSHA understands, and our Boston on-the-job accident attorneys at the Law Office of Jeffery S. Glassman, LLC can explain, many work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable.

One of the more common workplace injuries seen by OSHA is due to improperly guarded machines. Moving machinery by its very nature contains moving parts. These parts can result in serious personal injury or death if a worker gets his or her fingers, hands, clothing, or other body party trapped in the mechanism. This year alone, OSHA has fined numerous businesses that have failed to properly guard machines, resulting in injuries ranging from pinched fingers to more serious workplace injuries, including amputation and even a decapitation at a major bread manufacturing company.

OSHA is also required to perform investigations after certain industrial accidents and all workplace deaths. If OSHA determines serious safety violations occurred, the agency may fine the organization. OSHA will also look at past conduct on behalf of the employer when performing an accident or death investigation. This information can be extremely helpful to your workers’ compensation attorney.

One reason for this involves the exclusive remedy provision of Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. Under the workers’ compensation system, it is unnecessary to prove any negligence committed by an employer when applying for benefits. This is a distinction from a traditional civil personal injury lawsuit. While this can make it easier to recover workers’ compensation benefits, those benefits are limited to lost wages, medical bills, and funeral expenses in case of a worker death. In a civil personal injury lawsuit, there can also be damages for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and in some cases, special damages.

However, under Massachusetts law, if the accident was a result of serious misconduct by an employer, which showed a willful disregard for worker safety, the injured worker may be entitled to additional benefits or have the right to sue in civil court. OSHA investigation results can be extremely helpful in establishing such a claims, especially if OSHA fined an employer for serious violations.

Even accidents that do not appear to involve any serious misconduct may be far more serious upon further investigation. We typically see this is the case for employers with multiple locations. When an accident occurs at one location, it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again at other locations. If an investigation reveals that the same preventable accident has happened multiple times in multiple locations, this pattern of disregard for worker safety may be used to establish a serious violation.

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