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Workplace injuries may bring lifelong suffering

Physical wounds may heal, but often emotional scars affect one for a lifetime. In California and elsewhere, some workers take this risk every day. Two years after a serious accident on the job, one man is still suffering from workplace injuries that cannot be seen by the eye. After watching a co-worker die and seeing others critically wounded, the man finds himself struggling with crippling anxiety in addition to the pain in his body.

The man and his three co-workers were subcontractors working in an out-of-state fish processing plant to repair a large stickwater storage tank. The men were told that the contents of the tank were not flammable and that welding equipment would not pose a danger. According to the worker, the plant engineer further indicated that it would be too expensive to drain the water from the tank. The four men proceeded to work on the tank, but after only a few minutes, the stickwater erupted, blowing off the 10-ton lid.

What the engineer apparently had not told the men was that the decomposing fish matter that makes up stickwater can create flammable gases. The pressure of the explosion hurled the men into the metal walls and equipment around them. One man died instantly, leaving behind a wife and unborn child. The other three suffered critical, permanent injuries, including disfigurement and brain damage.

In California and elsewhere, workplace injuries caused by an employer's gross negligence may result in lawsuits against the business. All three surviving victims in this tragic accident have filed such claims. The suits allege that supervisors breached their duty to warn the workers of the danger and misrepresented the hazards of the job. If a jury determines that the company acted with gross negligence, punitive damages may be added to the millions of dollars in restitution the workers are seeking.

Source: sunherald.com, "Omega Protein explosion leaves survivor a 'miserable person'", Anita Lee, Sept. 29, 2016

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