Injured On The Job Due To Poor Workplace Safety
I am writing this letter because of a work place accident that occurred at my job in Maine on February 4, 2001. I have been treated badly by the company and have spoken to a workers comp advocate and got nowhere. I have had no luck with attorneys because due to the new laws regarding workplace injuries in Maine, there is no money in it for them.
Since the accident I have lost my car, and my savings, my credit is going downhill, and while MRI’s and Xrays show nothing, I have been in constant pain ever since the injury. The company was responsible for my injury because of their demands for speed (100% efficiency) and accuracy (.05% error rate) which clearly stressed speed over safety. This combined with faulty equipment and supplies led to a situation in which I was injured.
Once I was injured, the company treated me unfairly and showed more concern in getting me back to the workplace then in getting my injury treated correctly as well as promptly. They even went around their own doctor's orders by misrepresenting my condition causing me undo pain and suffering. My union steward has a copy of the grievance I filed on this matter.
I dealt with unsafe conditions at the warehouse on a daily basis and notified one of the three supervisors and my union steward on each occasion. Some examples of this would be fully loaded pallets falling from the top shelves some 15 feet above the warehouse floor. I also saw merchandise stacked on pallets that were broken, mangled, or not safe to hold the merchandise they were.
Damages and spills many times were not cleaned up or if they were, the clean up created a more hazardous condition. I was injured the first time on a detergent spill, and three days later I was re-injured on a bad clean up by the same employee. (When I went to notify my supervisor about the second injury, he did not file an injury report). Merchandise that was on special was stored in an area called the penalty box. This was a space in which loaded pallets of merchandise was staged in a group 4 pallets wide and 4 tall.
Workers are written up if they do not meet 100% production standards which was up from 90% when I started. How these standards are calculated is not posted but workers are assured that anything and everything has been figured in. We are allowed one error per 2000 pieces of freight we pick, an error rate of .05 percent. Since I started in June 2000, at least three dozen people have come and gone.
With the raise in demand for merchandise in the spring and the companies inability to keep workers, college students were hired as temporary workers. It was during this time that there were more incidents of racing and reckless behavior on the tuggers and forklifts. I brought it to the supervisors’ attention and was told that they would speak to the parties but nothing could be done unless a supervisor caught them in the act. This would have been difficult, as the supervisors tend to stay in the office a lot. Even doing a warehouse walk through the chances of catching someone fooling around is very low because of the large area the warehouse covers.
It is also my concern the way that the company handled my injury, doctor imposed work restrictions and subsequent job assignments causing me unnecessary pain and suffering and stress. The first thing the store nurse and supervisor told me when I was injured was that despite all the rumors I may have heard about their shoddy handling of other on the job injuries, there was no truth in them.
After trying to work with the injury and experiencing a great deal of pain, I contacted the insurance selected doctor and she said she would restrict me to 4 hours of work per day. Before these restrictions were put into place, she called me back and told me that the company had some sit down work so I could still work 8 hours. My job assignment was operating a forklift.
Even with frequent doctor recommended stretches and a freezer blanket as padding for the seat, much pressure was put on my sciatic nerve. I had severe pain, spasms, numbness and tingling in my left leg, foot, and back. My neck would lock up and I started having symptoms in my right foot as well. I complained to my supervisor about the pain and he told me the symptoms were normal, he had seen the doctor’s report but he could not force me to work. However if I left I would be written up.
Each day when I arrived, I informed my supervisors of my condition and symptoms. On my follow with the insurance company doctor on February 21, 2001 the doctor and I were both surprised. She was surprised I was feeling so badly as the warehouse nurse had told her I was doing well. I was surprised because the company had so blatantly told the doctor I was okay when I had expressed my symptoms each day, and there had been no relief in my symptoms.
The doctor then put me on a greatly restricted work schedule of 4 hours a day, and I filed a grievance with the union. Although the company had only 5 days to respond, it took them 2 weeks. My union steward informed me that they had said I told them I was okay. I mention th!
is point, as it is a big reason I did not accept their job offer
All this time I was asking for a second opinion or diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis as I was still working on my feet and my symptoms were continuously moderate to severe. First, the warehouse nurse would tell me that the doctors outside of the insurance company's doctors where she also worked were all “quacks.” Then, she tried discouraging me by telling me I would have to see all kinds of specialists and suggested it would not worth all the hassle when she was satisfied with the diagnosis. She did finally ask their doctors to take some x-rays.
After 6 weeks working with them and experiencing little if any relief, I was referred to a podiatrist. He pointed at a few spots on my foot and leg asking if I had pain in them. When I replied that I did, he informed me that I did not have plantar faciaitis, but a form of tendonitis. He also mentioned it would have been easier if I had had the plantar faciaitis as opposed to the tendonitis because the tendonitis tends to be more persistent.
I asked the Worker’s Compensation hearing board to appeal the decision to reduce my benefits because my injury was due to company negligence. Poorly trained workers, lack of supervision, faulty equipment, and the emphasis on speed over safety all had a part in my injury. A lack of action on these issues led to a similar accident a couple days later although I was being cautious.
Once I was injured, I was rushed back to work still on the injured foot because the company had misstated my condition. This made it impossible for my injury to heal, and may have done permanent damage. Only after my worker’s comp claim adjuster contacted the company asking for a modified work assignment did they eventually get around to making me an offer. My decision not to take that job was based on their handling of my injury earlier when they misrepresented the extent of my injury. I could not afford to take a chance that they would do the same thing again putting me at further risk. I did my job !
per their requirements, with unsafe equipment and got hurt because the premises were unsafe. I filed an injury report and did as the company and their doctors suggested, yet they showed a lack of concern in my complaints of pain and other symptoms. At times they were not good at communicating with the doctors and made light of my condition. While the worker’s comp advocate said I should keep going back and let the company violate the work restrictions to demonstrate they were not acting in good faith, I had already done that and I was the only one paying the price. I am still experiencing the symptoms, some less than before, and some more severe.. but for the most part, not much has changed.
I have some documentation, doctor’s records, lists of symptoms, and my girlfriend witnessed many of the symptoms. I take great pride in working very hard and doing a great job. It just doesn’t seem right that a company can get away with all the things they did and I have to suffer for the rest of my life physically, emotionally, and financially.
Thank you for your time.