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Rancho Mirage Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workplace accidents: Forklift risks underscored by worker's death

Business owners in California are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Safety training must be provided to all workers to ensure the prevention of workplace accidents. Furthermore, those who are tasked with operating dangerous equipment such as forklifts must be properly qualified to do so, and even then, they must comply with safety regulations.

The dangers posed by forklifts are not always recognized -- often with devastating consequences. A tragic incident involving a forklift recently claimed the life of a 35-year-old employee at a construction site in Lafayette. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the accident but provided little information about the circumstances that lead to the worker's death.

Heat exposure can lead to construction workers' accidents

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has no definite rules related to working in very hot conditions, but employers are responsible for the health and safety of employees. This includes protecting them from excessive heat exposure. One of the first signs of heat illness is dizziness, which can cause devastating construction workers' accidents within in moments.

With recent temperatures in California bordering on triple digits, construction authorities explained that certain jobs cannot be done in extreme temperatures, and others cannot be delayed because of excessive heat. While ice is added when concrete is mixed in California to prevent it from curing too quickly, other processes such as Shotcrete cannot be rescheduled. It is a process of coating steel beams with concrete that is done by a company in another state, and applications are booked many months in advance, leaving companies little choice but to work regardless of the temperature.

Workplace injuries prevalent when frequent lifting is required

Industries nationwide, including in California, spend billions of dollars on workers' compensation claims for back-related injuries every year. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says one in five claims for workplace injuries involve back injuries. Records also show that the majority of back injuries are suffered during materials handling -- mainly lifting -- and three in four of these damage the lower backs of employees.

Safety advocates suggest some administrative controls could help limit these injuries. The suggestions include the testing of each worker's strength to avoid allocating jobs that exceed the power capabilities of employees. Furthermore, stretching programs to limit muscle strain risks are suggested, along with training in safe lifting techniques that will minimize lower back stress.

Multiple construction workers' accidents at Facebook site

Business is booming in California, and with it comes an increase in building. While it is not unusual for construction workers' accidents to occur, when multiple accidents happen on the same site, rescue workers and other authorities may begin to worry. Recently, a worker's fall from the site of the new Facebook building marked the second such accident since construction began this spring.

Early in the morning, the man was working on the fourth floor of the new building when he stepped on a strip of steel decking. The steel piece dislodged, and the man dropped about 15 feet. Because he was wearing his safety harness, he did not strike the floor, and his fellow workers released him from the harness. He did not suffer life-threatening injuries, but paramedics rushed him to the hospital for treatment. He complained of substantial pain.

Workplace injuries can result from sedentary job environments

"Get up and get moving" is common advice for people in California who suffer the consequences of a sedentary life. However, if a large portion of that sedentary life is spent at work, it may be difficult to incorporate such advice into the day. Studies continue to confirm that many workplace injuries and illnesses occur due to the very nature of some jobs.

It may seem obvious that someone working in the industries of construction, farming or distribution would be susceptible to pain and illness from the strenuous work they do. However, those whose jobs are less physical may be putting their bodies under a different kind of stress. Sitting for the majority of one's waking hours working at a computer makes one vulnerable to a host of negative consequences.

Workplace accidents involving explosives can be devastating

Summer is not the only time when people across the country celebrate with fireworks. New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, weddings and baseball games may incorporate fireworks displays to the surprise and delight of many. However, the personal possession and use of fireworks is carefully limited by California law and with good reason. Fireworks can be dangerous, even deadly, to untrained users, and even the most careful handlers of the explosives may end up seriously injured or worse. Those who handle fireworks for a living are constantly at risk for workplace accidents.

At an out-of-state plant that manufactures fireworks, the employees understand the risks involved in producing, packaging and presenting fireworks displays for special events. Nevertheless, one worker was critically injured when fireworks exploded in her hands. As another employee made a frantic call to 911, a second explosion occurred. Fire officials arrived to a blaze in the building and found the injured woman, who has been a part-time employee for four years.

Injuries from explosions may require temporary disability

Eyes are on the skies this week as the nation celebrates Independence Day with fireworks displays. The public is warned each year of the dangers of personal fireworks and handheld sparklers, and even adults setting off fireworks may be injured to the point of requiring hospitalization and temporary disability. However, few probably consider the danger involved in assembling the explosives.

Recently, California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined a local industrial explosives manufacturer almost $300,000 for failing to provide protection and training to employees working with explosives. The fines followed nine citations for safety violations, including three categorized as willful-serious. The violations stem from an incident that occurred in December in which a technician was injured.

Rise in workplace injuries alarming at Goodwill

When the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health launches an investigation into the working conditions of an industry, its purpose is to ensure the employees have a safe environment in which to work. That safety involves protection equipment, freedom from hazards and proper training to prevent workplace injuries. Recently, following a fatal accident in which a worker's head was crushed in a compactor, Goodwill Industries is facing a Cal/OSHA probe and possibly criminal charges.

While the salaries of the CEO and president of Goodwill continue to rise, the working conditions may be declining. In fact, one employee claims he was fired after he filed a complaint, including photographs, of unsafe conditions around the compactors and lack of training for those using the machines. The fatal accident occurred only one month after the employee's complaint.

Spinal injuries may require temporary disability claim

Falls are one of the most common and devastating construction worker injuries. Workers in California and across the country are trained to wear protective gear and use extra precaution when working at great heights. Someone falling from a scaffold or platform risks injuries such as head trauma, broken bones and spinal fractures. Any of those injuries may mean losing time on the job and seeking financial relief for temporary disability to cover basic living expenses.

One man recently fell 20 feet while working on a scaffold on a construction site that was part of a hospital expansion project. Around 1:30 p.m., the man fell from the scaffold into a trench below. Rescuers were not immediately able to reach the injured man, but after about 20 minutes, they lowered someone into the trench to help him.

Cal/OSHA proposes rules for workplace accidents involving heat

California lawmakers often lead the way when it comes to enacting safety measures. Recently they continued the trend by acknowledging growing concerns regarding heat-related workplace accidents. While protocol for the prevention of heat-related illnesses and injuries has been in place for over a decade, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has not been successful in implementing similar policies for indoor workers. However, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a measure to address this deficiency.

The law forces Cal/OSHA to come up with standards to prevent illnesses when temperatures rise in an indoor work environment. This protocol must be in place by Jan. 1, 2019, but Cal/OSHA already has a draft of the policy in circulation. While not finalized, the draft includes recommendations and rules to protect indoor employees similar to those regulations provided for outdoor workers.

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