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Rancho Mirage Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workers' compensation claim might follow heat-related death

With record highs in California temperatures this month, all outdoor workers are at risk of suffering heat exhaustion. The surviving family members of a 63-year-old postal worker whose death might have been heat-related will likely seek financial assistance through the workers' compensation insurance program of the state. Reportedly, the woman worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 28 years.

According to authorities, the woman was delivering mail in sweltering temperatures before her lifeless body was found in her vehicle. They suspect that exposure to excessively high temperatures led to her death. Her son said she had been off work for some time due to a fractured ankle, and returned recently. However, this was not the first time the heat got to her, as she reportedly suffered heat stroke before.

Workplace injuries: Public park cleaners face health risks

Public parks in California such as Capitol Park in Sacramento have become areas where homeless individuals spend their nights. The garbage and debris they leave behind are causing problems for workers who have to clean up. Reportedly, a director of public employees filed a complaint on behalf of employees who fear they could suffer serious workplace injuries due to their exposure to fecal matter and blood.

Workers say their duties to maintain, repair and clean park facilities expose them to hazardous garbage. Furthermore, they are issued with high-pressure washers that break up waste and disperse it in a way that exposes workers to blood-borne diseases. They say that passers-by are also exposed to the same hazards. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigated the complaints and proposed fines of over $3,000 along with several citations.

Collapsing scaffolds cause tragic construction workers' accidents

Workers in California's construction industry frequently risk their lives on scaffolding. While safety authorities say falls form a significant percentage of annual workplace fatalities in the state, it is not always the lack of fall protection that is to blame. Negligently erected scaffold structures that collapse cause many construction workers' accidents, with traumatic consequences.

There are strict regulations for the construction and use of scaffolds, as well as the accessibility and frequent inspection of the structures. Trained personnel must erect scaffolds, and the instructions of the manufacturer must be followed precisely. A qualified individual must inspect it before the start of each shift. Any piece of the frame that is twisted, cracked, bent, dented or damaged can compromise the safety of any workers on a scaffold.

West Nile Virus can cause illness and temporary disability

According to the California Department of Public Health, with the summer heat of June comes the threat of West Nile Virus. Reportedly, the first four confirmed cases of WNV-related illnesses have been recorded. WNV affects people in different ways, and while some victims may only show mild symptoms, the virus could cause temporary disability or worse. A small percentage of victims could develop meningitis, encephalitis or other serious neurologic illnesses, and it could even be fatal.

Employers and employees are urged to take the necessary precautions as protection and to limit exposure to mosquitoes. Last year, 553 cases of WNV were reported in California, of which 44 people died. A CDPH spokesperson warned that there is increased activity of WNV in California. Employers must ensure that workers are aware of the danger and know how to protect themselves.

Workplace accidents: Female plumber dies in freak accident

A 34-year-old woman who was one of only a few female plumbers working for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission lost her life in an unusual incident on a recent Wednesday afternoon. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has launched an investigation, as it does in all fatal workplace accidents. Sadly, the woman's daughter, who is not even three years old yet, now has to adjust to life without her mother.

Reportedly, the woman and two other city employees were on foot during a task to replace some pipes and repair a leak. They were near a flat-bed tow truck, onto which a car with a broken transmission was being loaded, when the freak accident occurred. A police spokesperson says the vehicle slipped, causing it to roll back and strike the female plumber. Her two colleagues apparently managed to escape injuries.

Construction workers' accidents: Confined space management

The construction industry poses numerous safety hazards, and many of them are life-threatening. Employers must comply with many safety regulations prescribed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health specifically for the prevention of construction workers' accidents. Some of the most dangerous areas are confined spaces, and a competent person at each construction site must inspect confined spaces and determine whether they require permits to control entry into them.

Potential hazards in confined spaces include flammable or toxic chemicals or fumes and insufficient oxygen. Engulfment by liquid or flowable solid substances can cause death, and areas with floors that slope away from the exit point can prevent escape. The presence of other hazards, such as the risk of explosions, fire, radiation, biological hazards, extreme temperatures, or mechanical or electrical hazards, can also make a confined space a permit-required area.

Summer poses unique hazards for workplace injuries

Workers in California, especially those who are new to the workforce, may not be aware of the hazards unique to the summer. While employee training might cover the various workplace injuries that can happen, the risks of working outdoors at this time of the year must be underscored. Those who work alone are most vulnerable, and they will need to take additional precautions to stay safe from a variety of seasonal hazards this summer.

As protection against the heat of the sun, workers must apply sunscreen throughout the day, take in enough fluids to remain hydrated and take frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas. Poor air quality can be caused by the prevalence of allergens, debris particles and dust in the air at this time of the year. Workers with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma must take particular care. Extreme summer weather can include tornadoes and lightning, and shelter must be sought at the first signs of thunder.

Workplace accidents: Tree trimmer falls 30 feet to his death

Investigators of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health are looking into the death of a tree trimmer in Palo Alto. Although the agency investigates all fatal workplace accidents, those in which the deceased employees worked alone are more challenging because no other workers were around to witness the incidents. Investigators will have to piece together the evidence found on the scene and statements from residents who might have witnessed the fall.

A spokesperson for the local fire department says the incident happened at about 12:40 p.m. on a recent Saturday. An incident report indicates that the 36-year-old worker was using a chainsaw to trim the branches of a tree, estimated to be approximately 30 feet tall. First responders arrived at the scene to find the tree trimmer laying next to the tree on the ground below.

Forklift accident causes traumatic workplace injuries

Forklifts are common pieces of equipment in warehouses and distribution centers in California. Unfortunately, the hazards they pose are not always recognized. Accidents involving forklifts are common, and the resulting workplace injuries are often catastrophic. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reportedly launched an investigation into one such accident that occurred on a recent Wednesday.

Very few details were made available, except that the fire department of Santa Fe Springs sent rescuers in response to an emergency call shortly after midday. A male employee was later rushed to a hospital with traumatic injuries he suffered in a fork-lift-related workplace accident. Reportedly, the man was working in a warehouse that is operated by an importer and wholesaler of food products.

Workers' compensation: Heat hazards early this summer

Summer has barely started, and California has already been hit by a heat wave. Every year, the consequences of excessive heat exposure see many employees having to file workers' compensation claims for medical expenses and lost wages due to heat illness. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health already urged employers to be prepared after temperatures in some areas soared to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the second week of May.

Safety regulations require employers to have written plans in place to prevent heat illness, including procedures for emergency response, and supervisors and employees must receive the necessary training for implementation of the program. It is essential to provide each worker with at least one quart of cool, fresh and pure water per hour -- free of charge. When temperatures rise above 80 degrees, there must be shaded areas available where workers can take frequent five-minute breaks to cool down. This must be done in prevention and not only once they begin to feel sick.

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