Textile Mill Worker Injury in Boston
Textile mill worker injury in Massachusetts is less common than it used to be, partly because there are fewer textile mills in existence here than there used to be, but also because working conditions have improved substantially.
Still, textile mill workers are exposed to a host of hazards, such as long hours within which they are often toiling in repetitive action. They are also exposed frequently to high levels of dust and certain chemical dyes, as well as laceration risks from operating machines or cutting tools.
Textile mills were integral to the growth of Massachusetts. They were the lifeblood of this region. The very first textile mill in the U.S. was built in Lowell in 1822 and was considered an "industrial miracle." It marked a new era of growth in American commerce - and brought us one step closer to gender equality (the ability to purchase mass-produced clothing from a store substantially reduced women's in-home workload). Textile manufacturing was the dominant industry in Massachusetts during the Industrial Revolution, carving out the state's early identity as a manufacturing powerhouse, and spurring the state's further industrialization and growth.
Starting in about the 1840s, working conditions in the mills dipped substantially as more immigrant laborers and even children were hired, many exploited, paid poorly and subjected to long unregulated hours, poor ventilation and dangerous equipment. Occupational injury and disease were common, sparking unionization and strikes. The mills almost entirely disappeared after the Great Depression and again following WWII.
However, it's not a dead industry by any means. Although most garments are made overseas, the U.S. is still a globally competitive manufacturer of textiles, employing roughly 565,000 people and exporting $26 billion annually in goods. Here in Massachusetts, we're seeing a resurgence, with several new (albeit smaller) facilities opening in recent years. In 2016, Cambridge was selected as the site for the Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a consortium of 89 textile manufacturers, universities, non-profits and the Department of Defense to develop revolutionary prototype fibers and textiles with a wide range of functions, including monitoring health, regulating temperature, storing energy, communicating and changing color. We may see continued growth given recent federal efforts to stimulate domestic manufacturing.
At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our workers' compensation attorneys in Boston recognize that while working conditions in textile mills have much improved since the Industrial Revolution, those in the remaining facilities may still be at higher risk for certain types of injuries and illnesses.
Our experienced team of lawyers can help you determine your legal rights if you have suffered a work-related injury while employed in a New England textile mill.Occupational Hazards for Textile Workers
Despite several reforms setting higher safety standards for the textile industry, there are still several ongoing employment hazards. Some of those include:
- Musculoskeletal injuries. Workers who are involved in sewing activities in particular - whether they are making shoes, garments or car seat upholstery - often work long hours at a seated sewing station. Using good ergonomic posture and tools is important but may not totally eliminate the risk. Manual handling in the textile industry also poses a risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Examples of common risky activities include lifting heavy or awkward loads, repetitive motion, twisting and other awkward postures, excessive use of force and difficulty gripping. Workers are often asked to move bulk textiles organized in bales, rolls, boxes or loosely-folded cloth, but a good employer will provide the necessary tools and training so workers can do it safely. Finally, textile workers who spend a lot of time cutting, stitching and performing fine fabric work may find they have a strain on their wrists, shoulders, hands, neck, and eyes. Improved lighting and proper ergonomics often help.
- Chemical hazards/ dyes. There many different chemicals, dyes and dyeing processes used in the U.S. textile industry, and some may be potentially toxic, particularly to the lungs, skin, and eyes. As noted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the manual transfer of powder dyes from bulk containers to smaller process containers often kicks up a great deal of dust, putting the worker at risk of inhaling it or contact with skin and eyes. Depending on the exact chemical, that could potentially result in very serious injury or illness. It's imperative that workers are properly protected from exposure through adequate ventilation, redesigned bulk containers and appropriate work practices. Benzidine-based dyes (which impart a wide range of color to various products) especially may pose a serious risk of worker illness, as noted in a special hazard review by NIOSH, which warned of possible cancer risks. A NIOSH intelligence bulletin identifies these dyes, as well as Direct Black 38, Direct Brown 95 and Direct Blue 6, be treated in the workplace as carcinogens.
- Dust. Cotton dust exposure is associated with bladder cancer and respiratory disorders among textile workers, and new studies continue to underscore the risk of chronic lung diseases it can cause. OSHA's Occupational Exposure to Cotton Dust final rule was updated in 2000. Additionally, dust from silk, wool, flax, hemp, sisal, and jut may also potentially be hazardous.
- Burns. Some facilities use high-temperature dye machines that have resulted in numerous worker injuries. Numerous instances of serious defects in safety devices have been discovered with some of these machines.
- Falls. Approximately one-third of all major injuries reported at work in all industries are falling, and the textile manufacturing sector is no exception.
- Cuts and lacerations. These have been noted more frequently among textile industry workers who use scissors, sewing machines or other equipment with sharp blades. Proper training, personal protections and machine guarding is imperative. This is increasingly a concern as the textile industry in the U.S. has shifted to include greater automation.
- Psychosocial effects. Work-related stress is not uncommon for textile industry workers. Stress can lead to a host of health problems for workers, ultimately impairing their ability to function.
If you have suffered a work-related textile injury in Massachusetts, our experienced workers' compensation attorneys can help you determine your legal rights.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation