Pressured to Work While in Pain

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) released a report in August, 2018, detailing the use—and abuse—of opioid pain medication in the construction industry. Researchers now know that Massachusetts workers in construction have a much greater risk of dying from pain medication overdoses than workers in other industries. When workers are injured on the job and are prescribed opioid pain medication, they often start by taking pain pills in order to keep working but end up being addicted. Such opioid prescription pain medications are known as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine.

Unlike some full-time employees who have benefits, construction workers generally aren’t paid when they aren’t on the job. Even worse, they could lose their employment simply by not working when they’re sick or injured, regardless of the severity of their injury or illness. Injured workers often take pain pills to keep going every day and to keep food on their family’s table. As Jodi Sugarman-Brozan, the executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health put it, “There is a lot of pressure to work in pain.”

Steve Heisler, “The Injury Lawyer,” can help evaluate your Maryland claim, get in touch with expert witnesses, conduct a thorough investigation, and negotiate the discovery and court processes necessary for successful verdicts and settlements. Give Steve a call for expert and compassionate legal assistance.

How Serious is the Problem?

According to the report issued by the MDPH, construction workers in Massachusetts were six times likelier to overdose on opioid medication than any other group of workers. Others who usually can’t miss work due to injury or illness—like workers in fishing, farming, and forestry—were five times more likely to overdose on opioids than the average person in the workforce.

The numbers reflect a mostly male workforce in these industries. For females, opioid overdoses were concentrated in health care support and food preparation jobs.

In Maryland, we don’t have figures specific to workers who died from opioid overdoses. However, we do know that during 2017 2,009 deaths in our state were opioid-related. Fatalities associated with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, spiked to 1,594 from 1,119 in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Maryland has one of the highest death rates from opioid overdoses, placing it among the top five states. The problem has become so harmful that several localities, among them Havre de Grace, Bel Air, and Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, have all filed suits against the companies that make and sell opioids. The localities hope to obtain compensation for the costs of the opioid epidemic in their areas to the taxpayers.

Court Case Precedent

Precedent exists for lawsuits involving workers who died from opioid overdoses. According to the National Safety Council, as of 2015, the prior six years had seen 15 court cases of injured workers who died from taking opioids. In certain cases, it was ruled that workers who died from opioid abuse caused by a compensable workplace injury would create justifiable reasons for compensation under workers’ comp.

An Ever-Growing Problem

Abuse of opioids has morphed into an enormous problem in our nation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that, in 2017, 115 persons died each day from opioid overdoses. Workers who become addicted because they want to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies deserve help, not scorn. But the lack of sick pay and job security make it difficult for them to pass up drugs when they are in serious pain but must keep working. Massachusetts’s state public health commissioner, Dr. Monica Bharel, commented in a statement, “Ensuring that jobs are safe, that the risk of injury is low, and that workers have the time for rehabilitation and are not self-medicating to keep working are all key to decreasing opioid overdose deaths among workers.”

Injured on the Job? Call A Local Work Injury Lawyer.

Employers, businesses and managers have a responsibility to ensure proper training and a safe work environment in accordance with all regulations. Unfortunately, equipment malfunctioning, co-worker negligence, and bad decisions by management can place workers at risk. Since 1996, Steve Heisler has been devoted exclusively to helping injured people and their families pursue compensation from those who caused the injury. Steve approaches each case with compassion and thorough investigation, leaving no stone unturned in his goal of obtaining justice for persons harmed by the actions or inactions of negligent employers, manufacturers, and sub-contractors. If you or your loved one has been injured or killed in a work-related accident or incident anywhere in Maryland, call the Baltimore injury lawyers of the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler today. If you prefer, use our online contact form. The initial consultation is always free.