Posts tagged with "workplace accidents"

Bill would make Massachusetts state workplaces subject to OSHA standards

Bill would make Massachusetts state workplaces safer

Since 1970, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set standards to protect workers in the private sector. If there is an accident at a construction site, or if someone is injured at a manufacturing facility, OSHA will investigate the incident, order the employer to make any necessary changes and even levy fines in particularly egregious cases.

In Massachusetts, there is a notable legal loophole that means that some workers may find themselves in an unsafe workplace. Although OSHA standards cover private employers and Massachusetts law mandates safety standards for municipal employees, neither law applies to state workers – including those who work on the state’s highways. A new bill, recently introduced in the state legislature, would give state workers the same workplace protections that are given to municipal and private sector employees.

Specifically, the bill would not only provide OSHA protections to state employees, but would also allow the Massachusetts Department of Labor to set safety regulations and standards. The author of the bill, State Senator Marc R. Pacheco, says that its purpose is to prevent workplace accidents.

Although the bill may seem common sense, Pacheco is unable to determine whether state legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development is likely to act on it. In fact, Pacheco says has introduced similar legislation before the legislature unsuccessfully for at least the past five years.

Proponents of the measure, including the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, say that it would not only make state workplaces safer, but would also save the state money. Each year, Massachusetts spends approximately $48 million on workers’ compensation claims. If setting safety standards and ensuring compliance with OSHA regulations prevents just 10 percent of accidents in Massachusetts, the measure could save the state approximately $5 million annually. This is in addition to the substantial liability the state faces due to unsafe construction sites and other workplaces.

Nevertheless, the bill does have opponents. Most of those opposed to the bill argue that the change would substantially increase costs and would create yet another state bureaucracy. Neither of these objections, however, addresses the need to prevent accidents or create safer workplaces for state workers.

Time will tell whether Pacheco’s bill becomes law, but it may well be a step in the right direction for Massachusetts. After all, those workers who put their health and safety on the line to perform jobs for the state deserve all the protection they can get.

Fire may have been caused by defective equipment

When buying appliances for the workplace, Massachusetts small business owners should be careful to note that the product is safe, not subject to a recall and that it performs according to its purpose. This is because defective appliances sometimes cause serious damage, forcing companies to suffer huge losses. This was recently observed by a bakery and pie company that suffered serious damage to the nearly century-old building it was housed in during a recent fire.

According to sources, the company had installed fire suppression devices in their bakery. These devices were maintained by the same company that manufactured them. This past summer, a fire broke out in the fryer room, which was located in the center of the facility. This fire quickly spread to the entire building. Almost 100 fire fighters were called to subdue the fire, and luckily it did not cause serious injuries to any employees.

A product liability lawsuit was filed recently by the baking company against the manufacturer of the fire suppression device. Since it is not immediately clear why the fire suppression device did not function properly, the lawsuit will likely involve a lengthy investigation that will determine the relative fault of each party involved.

Property damage due to a defective product can give rise to a cause of action for damages against the manufacturer of the item if negligent maintenance or a faulty part of the device was the cause of the damage. Alternatively, some industrial equipment could be designed in a way that makes it ineffective, and in this case failing to prevent a fire is certainly a harmful defect.

Source: The Times-Picayune, “Hubig’s pie company sues fire suppression company” Paul Purpura, Dec. 26, 2012