Families of Fallen Workers Support Services
Families who have lost loved ones due to workplace tragedies know why safe, healthy workplaces can make a critical difference. In experiencing such loss, families of fallen workers often need emotional support, links to resources, and help navigating workers’ compensation and OSHA investigations.
MassCOSH supports grieving families in their time of need. Over time, many families continue working with MassCOSH as advocates, taking action to ensure that other workplace deaths are prevented.
MassCOSH provides families with a range of support:
- Linking families with family members who have been there and understand the emotions and questions so that no one has to be alone;
- Providing a guide with resources and information to support families through their ordeal;
- Helping families navigate the OSHA investigation process so they can be as informed as possible;
- Offering legal referrals and providing support as they pursue the legal process;
- Hosting an annual Workers Memorial Commemoration to honor and remember fallen workers and releasing an annual report, Dying for Work;
- Working with families to change unjust policies – such as advocating to increase the workers compensation burial benefit from $4,000 to $8,000
Stories of Fallen Workers
November 2007 was when my father, Carlos Dutra suffered a severe brain injury from an eight foot fall. It seems likes a short distance, especially for carpenters/construction workers who so often have to climb ladders.
At the onset of his fall he was responding, but the lapse in time in getting to the appropriate hospital caused extensive damage. Unfortunately our family did not know that lack of resources would further worsen his condition and cause the damage to be irreversible.
Imagine being a small business owner who paid perhaps a million dollars to a private workman’s comp. insurance for 10 years and then being faced without receiving care that is life saving. Our family battled with his injury for eight months before his life ended due mainly to lack of appropriate care. On the sixth month we were told that his condition, which at times was referred to a permanent vegetative state, would never improve and that we would have to start looking for a nursing home. We looked at over a hundred nursing homes, spending countless hours pouring over state reports for each facility. Hours that turned out to be invaluable, since his time was limited.
The overwhelming question that our family could not ignore was why a nursing home where he would receive minimal care as opposed to the rehab. that he was now in where he could receive therapy that could improve his condition. It turns out to be quite simple, yet sad, money. Along with being a medical mystery, brain injury patients are also extremely costly to the medical system. As a result these patients are shoved into nursing homes, for long term, but minimal care. However, my dad never made it to the nursing home. His last days were spent in a major hospital diagnosed with severe pneumonia. This diagnosis only came after the intervention of our family attorney. There is nothing worse than begging medical professionals to help your loved one as you watch them suffer so badly. It is especially worse when the reason is that everyone is just too busy and the hospital is short staffed.
If nothing else this experience have be a very big learning experience. However, I still consider our family to be luckier than most. While my dad had reached the vision that many immigrants have of the American dream, there are many who are injured at work and do not receive a fraction of the assistance that my father did. Our family had the language capacity and the resources to fight for his rights, but it still wasn’t enough. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been if we did not have the resources and the knowledge that we had.
Special Thanks to Jennifer Dutra, daughter of Carlos, who submitted this piece.
On August 14, 2008, Robert “Bobby” Harvey died on the job while dismantling the Goliath Crane at the Fore River Shipyard in his beloved City of Quincy. As workers were removing a large section of the supporting leg of the crane, the leg collapsed, scattering workers to safety. When the dust settled, a count of personnel revealed that Bobby was missing. His co-workers found him almost immediately. He was crushed by the debris from the accident.
A proud member of Ironworkers Local 7, Bobby started his career in 1999 as an apprentice Ironworker and completed all the necessary requirements to become a journeyman Ironworker. Jim Brown, Financial Secretary/Treasurer of Local 7, said of Bobby: “His love for his work was apparent to everyone who plied the trade with him. He never complained about any assignment. Instead, he took it as an opportunity to learn more about his craft. He always had his head down working and was respectful to everyone he worked with and anyone who crossed his path.”
Bobby regularly received the highest compliment possible for an iron worker: He didn’t have to come to the hall for work because employers would call looking for him. His work ethic was second to none, and his bond to his Brothers and Sisters at Local 7 was unparalleled.
“Bobby Harvey was a great young man who was dedicated to this local union and who had the potential to be a great leader in the Labor Movement. He was also a dedicated husband and son to an outstanding family who did not deserve his removal from their lives,” said Local 7 Business Manager Michael Durant.
Born on July 26, 1980 in Quincy, MA to his loving parents, Robert and Susan, Bobby was educated in the Quincy school system. He took great pride in being from the City of Presidents. As a member of Quincy Youth Hockey and other youth sports’ teams in the city, he excelled in everything he played. Notwithstanding, his love for hockey was evident from an early age.
He met his future wife, Jenn, in his early teens. They never looked back. They were married on September 24, 2006 and began to settle down. His love for his family and friends was obvious to all who knew him. If you were a friend of Bobby’s you knew it!
“Although Bobby will always be remembered as forever young, his spirit will also live on through the Robert “Bobby” Harvey Memorial/Scholarship Fund, which will be a bright light to many Quincy residents and the sons and daughters of Local 7. More importantly, his son is due to be born next month. We are confident his Dad’s spirit will live on with him,” said Secretary/Treasurer Brown.
Iron Workers Local 7 would like to use this Workers Memorial Day to invoke the spirit of all the workers who have passed to make the workplace a better place to toil. We hope that next year, and in all the years to follow, there will be fewer families, friends and co-workers who will be forced to mourn the loss of a loved one. If there is one thing we take away from this Workers Memorial Day it is that we can make a difference in the workplace by being forever vigilant that safety is of paramount concern in everybody’s job.
If you or your family lost a loved one to a workplace accident or illness, know you are not alone.
Sometimes sharing our story of grief can help the healing process. It may also even help others who feel lost and overcome with what has happened to their family. MassCOSH welcomes you to share your story so that we can continue to grow our family of those who have lost a loved one on the job and wish to strengthen the movement for safe and healthy jobs. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we are here to help.