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Rancho Mirage Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Construction workers' accidents: Rebar tower falls onto workers

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reports that it is investigating a recent incident that caused critical injuries to a worker in Fremont. The agency notes that it now has two construction workers' accidents under investigation in which employees of the same company suffered serious injuries. In the previous instance, a worker who was caulking fell from one floor to the lower one in June.

The new investigation was opened after Cal/OSHA learned that a rebar tower collapsed and fell onto three workers. According to the Fremont Fire Department, emergency workers rushed to the scene at which the workers were busy with a wrapping process when the structure toppled over. The battalion chief said the steel tower weighed approximately 1,000 pounds.

Workplace accidents: Harvester catches vineyard worker's clothes

The fact that employee fatalities are so rare in the California wine country might bring about complacency in employers and workers. However, workplace accidents do occur, and it appears the recent death of a worker at a vineyard in Napa is the first since another fatal incident last spring. In that accident, a Fairfield man became trapped underneath a tractor in a vineyard in Sonoma Valley when he was crushed while cleaning an implement on the machine.

According to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the most recent incident occurred on a Monday afternoon. Reportedly, a worker who was working close to a grape harvesting machine was pulled into the machine. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office says the man's clothing was caught in the harvester's moving parts. He succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Workers' compensation claims for lung diseases can be challenging

Following the National Healthy Lung month of October, workers in California might benefit from the awareness campaigns that were run to underscore the hazards posed by silica and asbestos. However, employers have known about the dangers and the high risks of lung cancer, but workers' compensation claims continue to be filed by workers whose health and safety were not protected. Workers do not always realize that they can insist on personal protective equipment if they work in hazardous conditions.

Asbestos is still present in older buildings and also some car parts, posing dangers to construction workers and auto mechanics. Asbestos fibers become airborne, and inhalation allows the particles to embed themselves in the lungs, and mesothelioma, which is a deadly type of cancer, is often the outcome. Crystalline silica is present in concrete products and building sand, and any processes that involve sawing, cutting or grinding with power tools such as drills and masonry saws can set free the microscopic silica particles. Inhalation happens without workers even realizing it -- until it is too late.

Workers' compensation: Oilfield truck rollover kills driver

Truck operators in the oil and gas industry face many occupational hazards, one of which is fatigue. It might never be known whether fatigue caused a recent fatal crash involving an oilfield bucket truck. The California Highway Patrol reported that this accident happened on Highway 58. A workers' compensation claim will likely be filed by the surviving family members of the young driver who lost his life in this crash. CHP says the accident happened in Kern County.

According to the Kern County Coroner, an 18-year-old truck driver from Bakersfield lost his life on a recent Monday morning. CHP says the oilfield bucket truck was heading west on State Route 58 at about 55 mph when, for reasons not yet determined, the truck veered across the dirt shoulder and into the lanes of eastbound traffic. In an attempt to get back into the westbound lanes, it appears that the trucker overcorrected.

Construction workers' accidents: Worker run over by equipment

While all industries pose occupational hazards, employees on construction sites might be at a higher risk than most. Construction workers' accidents are reported on a daily basis -- many of them fatal. However, now and again a worker walks away unscathed from an incident that could have caused catastrophic or fatal injuries.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reported one such an accident that occurred in Contra Costa County on a recent Monday. The agency says crews from the fire department rushed to a construction site on Bethel Island shortly before 5 p.m. They arrived to find that a machine used in the paving process had run over a construction worker.

Workplace injuries for truckers involve more than road accidents

Commercial truck drivers in California haul their cargo loads across the country, facing many more hazards than those presented by road accidents. Truckers are typically exposed to a variety of risks that could lead to workplace injuries -- to both health and body. Occupational illnesses, injuries and fatalities in the transport industry can occur inside and outside the cabs of the trucks.

According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of the lost workdays for truck operators are caused by overexertion and its impact on their bodies. Accidents involving falls after slip or trip incidents reportedly make up almost a third of the injuries, and contact with other equipment or objects also causes a significant percentage of injuries. Transportation-related injuries such as those suffered in road accidents represented the lowest percentage of casualties.

Being struck by objects can cause serious workplace injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says over 50,000 construction workers nationwide, including in California, suffer injuries from being struck by objects on building sites every year. Even something as small as a nut or a bolt falling from an elevated work area can cause a severe or fatal injury. However, precautions can be taken to prevent such workplace injuries.

Although the ideal is not to have activities going on below scaffolds and other areas where work is done at heights, that is not always practical. All workers must wear hard hats, and installing a safety net between two work levels to catch any dropped tools or falling objects will further prevent injuries. Having toe boards installed at elevated levels can prevent objects sliding off the work surface, and tethering tools with lanyards is another precaution that could be effective.

HAVS could cause temporary disability

Employees in various industries in California work with equipment that could be damaging to their health in the long run. Frequent use of hand-held tools that produce vibrations could lead to temporary disability if protection is not in place. Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is also known as vibration white finger disease, due to the most visible symptom of the disorder.

Hand-held power tools that produce enough vibration to cause harm include chainsaws, powered hammers, sanders, chisels, riveters, grinders, shapers and sharpeners. Also compactors, breakers and jackhammers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the vibration to which workers are exposed cause peripheral neural and peripheral vascular disorders that affect the hands and fingers of affected workers. Reportedly, there is no effective treatment -- making prevention crucial.

Construction workers' accidents: Mitigation of trench hazards

Trenches pose potentially deadly hazards. A significant number of construction workers' accidents in California involve unprotected trenches. State and federal safety authorities mandate that a competent person identifies existing dangers and also predictable safety risks before workers enter a trench. Because each excavation poses unique hazards, every job needs individual care and proper preparation.

Before digging a trench, factors that could cause risks must be evaluated. The proximity of traffic and surrounding structures will play a role along with soil classification and the presence of both surface and groundwater. The current and predicted weather must also be considered. Once the decision is made to excavate the trench, the necessary protective systems must be established.

Hotel workers assaulted by guests can lead to third-party claims

Hotel workers nationwide, including in California, are incredibly vulnerable when they work alone in areas such as guest rooms where they are isolated. Too many hotel workers fall victim to sexual assault and harassment in the hospitality industry. Although the state-regulated workers' compensation system covers work-related injuries, proving these incidents to be related to one's job could be challenging. However, victims might have grounds to file third-party claims.

Safety authorities representing the largest hotel companies in the world recently stepped up and announced that their employees would be equipped with electronic panic buttons or devices to be used to call for help. Furthermore, these hotels will establish anti-harassment policies and provide workers with relevant safety training. The American Hotel and Lodging Assn. chief executive says tens-of-thousands of workers will benefit from this initiative.


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