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Falling Objects in Massachusetts Workplaces

It can be important to be alert to not only the danger of falling in work spaces, but also the danger of falling objects. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited a workplace in which a 46-year-old employee died as a result of being crushed by a 12,000-pound steel bridge arch beam. He had been spray painting the beam before it fell on him.

OSHA discovered that the bridge company that employed him had failed to make sure that the beam that fell and similar beams were sufficiently braced to prevent falling when workers painted them. The area director explained that the death wouldn’t have occurred if the employer had made sure that the beams were secured appropriately.

There were also a number of other hazards. The workers cleaning and painting the beam didn’t have adequate respiratory protection while working in the midst of spray paint vapors. They were wearing half-face respirators but didn’t have the right respirator filters. They were not evaluated by the employer to determine medical fitness to use them and did not know about the hazards of the chemicals associated with spray paint.

Moreover, an unguarded grinder permitted flying debris, and there was excess air pressure from a cleaning hose. There was a risk of flash burns from a lack of screens where there was welding. There were also misused electrical cords, leading to electric shock and fire hazards. There was a damaged access ladder, and snow and ice had accumulated on the emergency exit route. In total, there were 13 serious violation citations due to the probability of serious physical injury or death that the employer should have known about.

More disturbingly, there were two repeat violations. There was an unguarded crane that presented a fall hazard, and there was a power cord that was installed through the wall to provide power to equipment outside the building. $72,450 in fines were proposed by OSHA.

How should employers guard against the risk of falling (or flying) objects? If you work in construction or any other workplace where falling objects are a significant risk, it is appropriate for your employer to provide you with a hardhat that fits properly. Work sites should be maintained such that materials are stacked appropriately to prevent falling or collapse. Toeboards and debris nets can help.

In general, it is also a good idea to secure tools and materials if they are near any sort of opening where they could fall on people below. Hazard areas should be barricaded, and warning signs should be posted. Guardrails and debris nets should be used to stop things from falling or catch them.

If you are struck by a falling object, you may suffer bruises, contusions, or broken bones. It is also possible you may suffer a concussion or some kind of internal damage or a crushed body part. Even if your injuries seem minor, you should visit the doctor as soon as possible to make sure there are no internal injuries that are more severe.

If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether you have a sound claim and fight to make sure that your employer and its insurer follow the rules or give you guidance if there is no insurance available. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.

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