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Rancho Mirage Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

Back injuries often mean temporary disability for workers

Sometimes it starts as a little twinge in the lower back and builds to paralyzing pain. Other times, it hits all at once with a snap, leaving a person lying on the floor until help arrives. Back injuries are among the most common workplace injuries, causing the temporary disability of thousands of employees in California each year. They are often recurring injuries since the spine and back muscles are more easily injured once they have been damaged. Knowing the common causes of back injuries on the job may help workers protect their spines.

While the science of ergonomics is becoming a larger component of safety training, many employers still take back safety for granted. Poor training and lack of reinforcement for proper lifting and carrying techniques results in serious spinal injuries. Safety advocates encourage a good balance of training and reminders so that workers do not become complacent.

Tesla reports higher than average workers' compensation claims

Many who anticipate improved versions of electronic vehicles are closely watching the development of Tesla, Inc. The company's California plant is preparing to release the Model 3 by increasing production five-fold. However, workplace safety advocates are alarmed at the number of injuries and illnesses among employees at the plant. A rise in workers' compensation claims may mean the company is putting production above the safety of its employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires companies to report all injuries and work-related illnesses. Data compiled from these reports shows that in 2014 Tesla's incident rate was 15 percent higher than the national average for car manufacturers, and in 2015, the incident rate rose to 31 percent above average. Tesla's rate of serious injuries that required workers to miss shifts or restrict their duties was more than 100 percent higher than the national average.

Cal/OSHA reviews policies after construction workers' accidents

California's branch of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has long warned contractors about the dangers of sending workers into confined spaces without proper permits and safety precautions. Construction workers' accidents in confined spaces frequently make for difficult rescue operations because there is often only one opening. The main concern for workers in confined spaces is the risk of air contamination because of poor ventilation.

Recently, a man working for a subcontractor died at a construction site after he was sent into a drainage shaft to remove mud and debris for the installation of concrete posts called caissons. The man entered the shaft in a bucket attached to a small crane. Ten feet into the shaft, the worker lost consciousness because of the lack of oxygen. He fell 40 feet to the bottom of the shaft and drowned in 12 inches of water before rescuers could reach him.

Logging sees more workplace accidents than other jobs

While it is not a contest many would like to win, loggers have once more made the top of the list of the most dangerous occupations, according to the latest report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows that 132.7 loggers die in workplace accidents for every 100,000 full-time workers in country, drastically higher than the national average of 3.4. The families of many California loggers understand the risks they take, but it does not make it easier to bear when a tragedy occurs.

One woman recently lost her third loved one in a fatal logging accident. Her father was a tree cutter who died in 2000 when a tree fell on him. Around the same time, the woman's uncle died in a similar accident. Additionally, five other members of her family suffered serious injuries in logging accidents.

Workplace injuries sometimes result in third-party claims

Many people in California prefer jobs that take them out of the office. Sitting behind a desk is not what they enjoy, and they choose a career that allows them to work outdoors. However, doing field work is often dangerous because the environment cannot always be controlled, creating a higher risk for workplace injuries. One man in another state is an example of the injuries possible when working amid such risks.

The man worked as a field operator for a company servicing oilfields. While working on a job site owned by a local energy company, the man apparently stepped onto a wellhead and fell about five feet into the well. Additionally, an employee of the energy company who was working a crane nearby somehow contributed to the man's fall.

Workplace falls may result in temporary disability

Workplace falls are among the most common reasons why California employees suffer injuries. Whether it is a ground-level fall or a fall from a great height, the injuries may result in temporary disability, requiring the workers to seek financial assistance to cover their basic needs. A recent accident in another state left two workers with serious injuries that will certainly keep them off the job as they recover. However, such events are all too common.

The men were assembling steel framing for a new construction close to 5:30 one recent afternoon. Working about 40 off the ground, the men, who were between 20 and 30 years old, were standing on a steel beam to which their safety harnesses were attached. For unknown reasons, the beam failed and dropped about 20 feet, and the men fell with it.

Construction workers' accidents change lives in an instant

When accidents occur at California construction sites, they often happen so quickly that rescuers can do little to help. Heavy equipment used at great heights may combine to create a deadly situation if things go wrong. For safety advocates, the investigation of construction workers' accidents is primarily to prevent future accidents from occurring. Authorities are likely investigating a recent accident at a bridge project in another state to determine the causes and correct the situation.

Around mid-morning, emergency responders received word that a man had been injured at a bridge reconstruction site. Witnesses say a lift used to raise workers to the underside of the bridge suddenly tipped and fell over. The worker, whose age was not reported, was trapped under the fallen lift.

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