Fall Dangers in the Massachusetts Workplace
A fall in a workplace from an unguarded ledge or raised platform can cause serious and disabling injuries, including head injuries, broken bones and traumatic brain injuries. A case involving DeMoulas Supermarkets, Inc., which operates Market Basket groceries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, underscores the potential seriousness of workplace fall injuries.
DeMoulas was cited in October for “30 alleged willful, repeat and serious violations” by the U.S. Department of Labor after an employee was injured in a fall, according to the Boston Globe.
According to a Labor Department press release, work safety inspectors began investigating DeMoulas’s Market Basket store in Rindge, N.H., after an employee sustained broken bones and head trauma when he fell 11 feet to a concrete floor from an inadequately railed storage mezzanine, earlier this year.
Rather than summoning emergency aid, the store’s managers lifted the injured worker from the floor, put him a wheelchair and rolled him out to a loading dock to wait for a relative to take him to the hospital.
In May, federal work safety inspectors started investigating the Market Basket store in Concord, N.H., after an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) supervisor observed the similar type of fall hazard as at the Rindge store. According to the labor department, workers in both grocery stores were exposed to falls from heights of more than 11 feet while working on top of produce coolers, freezers and storage lofts that lack adequate safety rails. The agency previously cited DeMoulas Supermarkets for the same hazard at the Concord store as well as at its Massachusetts stores in Fitchburg, Lawrence and Tewksbury.
Falls are a serious danger in the workplace. Slips and falls account for one out of five workplace injuries in Massachusetts, causing missed days of work, according to Massachusetts work safety data. Nationwide, more than 600 workers died of fatal injuries from falls from ladders, roofs, scaffolding and from one level to a lower level, according to 2010 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
DeMoulas was assessed $589,000 in proposed fines by OSHA, in part because of recurring dangers in the workplace that had not been corrected companywide after previous citations. The company has an opportunity to contest the fines.
The bottom line is workers have a right to a safe workplace free of known hazards such as fall hazards and lacerating equipment. Employers in Massachusetts have a legal duty to provide safe working conditions. Workers who are injured or disabled as a result of a workplace fall or other on-the-job accident should receive prompt medical attention. They may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay hospital bills, physical therapy and other expenses.
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