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Fatality of farm worker might lead to workers' compensation claim

The AgSafe president recently noted that the death of a worker in a California raisin processing plant underscores the importance of workplace safety. The deceased worker's family will likely be eligible for workers' compensation death benefits, but that will not make up for the loss of the woman's life. Employers in the Agricultural industry must take responsibility for the health and safety of employees.

While the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigates the circumstances that led to the death of this woman, employers are reminded that their responsibility does not stop at providing personal protective equipment. All workers must receive adequate safety training that is relevant to the jobs they perform. In this case, it appears the worker reached into a working machine at the processing plant to remove a blockage, only to have loose clothing or hair get caught in rotating parts. This led to her tragic death.

Safety authorities remind employers that manufacturers are held to strict standards when it comes to safeguards and energy isolation devices to prevent contact with moving parts. However, those devices serve no purpose if workers are not trained in their use, and then appropriately supvervised to ensure correct use of protection. Sadly, many employers allow and maybe even encourage workers to clean, maintain and service machines without wasting time by using proper lockout/tagout protocols. This is nothing less than setting workers up to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries to benefit the bottom line.

The California workers' compensation insurance program provides benefits to injured workers, regardless of who was at fault. Compensation typically covers lost wages and medical expenses, but workers whose injuries cause permanent partial or total disabilities may receive additional benefits. When lives are lost, the surviving family members can claim survivors' benefits to help them cope with funeral and burial costs along with wage replacement. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can provide valuable support and guidance throughout ensuing proceedings.

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