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Chula Vista California Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workers' compensation: Trench collapse claims life of 1 worker

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened an investigation into the recent death of a construction worker in Orange County. This incident involved a collapsed trench, which is one type of construction accident that leads to thousands of workers' compensation claims for benefits every year. The tragedy is that many workers lose their lives in these incidents that are entirely preventable.

Cal/OSHA prescribes strict safety regulations for trenches, one of which is never to allow heavy equipment to operate near excavations. A spokesperson for Orange County Fire Authority said backhoes were used for digging in the vicinity when the trench walls collapsed. There was no mention of the presence of a trench box or other measures to prevent a cave-in.

6 office hazards that may surprise you

When you think about workplace hazards, construction workers in hard hats or soot-covered firefighters might be the first images that come to mind. You might not even consider the office you work in as being full of hidden dangers. However, you and other California office workers face unique hazards at your job every day, which you may not be aware of.

According to MSN, the following hazards are common in offices across the country and may threaten your health and safety:

  • Slipping and tripping hazards caused by electrical cords, furniture and clutter in walkways or workspaces
  • Headaches, eye strain, dry eyes and blurred vision from looking at computer screens for extended periods
  • Chronic stress from background noise and lack of privacy
  • Asthma and breathing problems from enclosed, energy-efficient office spaces and allergens in the workplace
  • Emotional trauma from workplace bullying, harassment and abusive behavior
  • Contagious viruses that lurk on the office coffeepot, drinking fountains and office equipment

Workers' compensation: Warehouse injuries can be severe

Not all warehouse owners in California recognize the vital role employee safety plays in profitability. By establishing a safe work environment, productivity can be maximized, and increased insurance premiums can be avoided by limiting injuries that lead to workers' compensation benefits claims. Injury-related lost work hours, repairs to equipment and damaged stock can be avoided by taking safety seriously.

Warehouse workers can protect themselves from known hazards typically present in these environments by taking some safety precaution. Slip-and-trip accidents can be avoided by cleaning up any spills or leakages, and clearing walkways of debris and random objects can prevent trips. Using proper lifting techniques and not attempting to lift objects that are too heavy without help might avert musculoskeletal injuries such as back and shoulder problems due to muscle or tendon tears, sprains and strains.

Workers' compensation: The severe hazards posed by electricity

Safety authorities recently reminded business owners nationwide, including in California, of the hazards posed by electricity. The National Institute of Safety and Health urged employers to respect electricity and never to start a project before assessing the job site and identifying potential electrical hazards. All employees must receive training in recognizing associated dangers and the appropriate methods for dealing with them.  Furthermore, employees must also be informed of the requirements and procedures for filing a workers' compensation claim in the event of an injury.

Workers may not realize that their bodies use internal electricity to control muscle movements via the nervous system. When an electric shock interferes with natural energy, violent muscle contractions can occur -- so much so that they could fracture bones and even prevent a victim from breathing. If the electrical current travels to the head, the worker can become unconscious, and subsequent falls can cause even more harm. Cardiac arrest can follow a current passing through the body close to the heart.

Workers' compensation claims may be fewer after new regulations

Six years ago, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health received a petition from hotel workers' representatives that ultimately led to the agency recently issuing new regulations to prevent injuries. Housekeepers in hotels file more workers' compensation claims for cumulative and acute injuries than workers in any other industry. The new rule requires employers to implement musculoskeletal injury prevention programs (MIPP) with ergonomic standards to protect hotel housekeepers.

Cal/OSHA says these workers risk slips and trips that cause falls, and they frequently work in awkward and prolonged static postures along with repetitive reaching to extreme heights above their shoulders. Further threats of injuries are caused by lifting, hand- and full-body exertions while bending and twisting the torso, pulling, pushing and squatting. During all this, they have to look out for being struck by falling objects as they sweep, dust, scrub, mop and polish.

Fear shouldn't block you from seeking workers' comp help

Nearly every worker in California is covered by workers' compensation. State law requires every company with one or more employee to have coverage. That does not mean that every worker eligible for coverage manages to get the help he or she deserves when hurt on the job. Perhaps tops on that list would be the day laborer – who very often happens to also be an undocumented immigrant.

While this particular work force does not represent the majority of people on the job, it does make a major contribution to the California economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the day labor force in the U.S. as a whole represents some 5 percent of all workers. In California, day laborers constitute 9 percent of all workers.

Construction workers are at high risk for traumatic brain injury

As a California construction worker, you know that your work sites usually are noisy and hectic places. In addition, you often must do your work high off the ground, such as on ladders, scaffolding and roofs. Despite harnesses and other safety equipment, you risk falling every day. If and when you do, your chances of receiving a traumatic brain injury are very high.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that construction sites account for the highest number of TBIs, both fatal and nonfatal, suffered by workers while on the job. Between 2003 and 2010, over 2,200 construction workers suffered a fatal TBI, over half of which were the result of a fall. These TBI deaths represented 25 percent of all construction fatalities during that period.

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