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Los Angeles Workers' Issues and Personal Injury Blog

Workplace injuries: 90,000 workers risk respiratory illness

California farms produce a significant percentage of the nation's fruits and vegetables, and about 90,000 farmworkers risk their health when planting, harvesting and packing the fresh produce. However, this year, most of them will face the fungicide season without masks due to the current nationwide shortage of respiratory protection. The risk is exacerbated by the fact that the fire season will follow soon.

Farmworkers need masks to protect them from breathing in field dust and pesticides that could cause serious respiratory illnesses and asthma. Masks also prevent the inhalation of smoke and ash when the annual fire season starts. Farmworkers say their only protection right now is bandannas, which they tie over their mouths and noses and around their necks.

How well will you do your job without fingers or hands?

Most people take their hands for granted. Workers in California and elsewhere wear hard hats to protect their heads and harnesses to arrest falls, but some never pause to think about the hazards of having their hands or fingers crushed. If you are one of them, you would be wise to imagine your life without your hands. A good piece of advice, regardless of the industry in which you earn your income, is never to put your hands where you cannot see them.

Safety authorities say approximately 125,000 workers nationwide suffer caught-in or crushed-by injuries each year. This number includes all industries, from construction sites to offices and big-rig operators.

Workplace injuries: Slips, trips and falls on construction sites

Slips, trips and falls are prevalent on California construction sites. Safety authorities say same-level falls cause a significant percentage of workplace injuries, most of which are preventable. Injuries typical to this type of accident include knee strains, twisted ankles, back injuries, muscle tears and even fractured wrists if the worker tries to break the fall with his or her hands.

If the worker's head strikes something hard during the fall, traumatic brain injuries can occur. Conditions that cause same-level falls include walk surfaces that are too soft, uneven, muddy or wet, and distractions often cause workers not to watch their step. A slip or trip can happen in the blink of an eye, and workers must learn to be aware of their surroundings when they navigate uneven ground.

Are virus infections covered by workers' compensation?

Each year, thousands of workers in California fall victim to any of the flu viruses that happen to be around. According to a spokesperson for the California Workers' Compensation Institute, no diseases or categories of illnesses are excluded from compensation. However, whether workers become ill from common flu viruses or some new virus strain that becomes a pandemic, proving it to be work-related could be difficult.

Although workers like firefighters and safety officers are automatically covered for certain diseases that are included in the list of presumptions, workers in other industries have to prove causation. This means that mere exposure to a virus is not proof enough; causation has to be shown. Therefore, an answer to the question about whether virus infections are covered depends on the specific circumstances.

Does your employer prioritize your safety?

Warehouses and fulfillment centers in California pose many life-threatening hazards. If your employer is more focused on the bottom line than employee safety, damaged stock and equipment breakdowns might receive more consideration than your welfare. However, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health mandates that employers must provide workplaces that are free of known hazards.

Cal/ OSHA provides safety guidelines for all industries, and compliance with safety standards is crucial. If you learn more about these standards, you will be able to recognize safety hazards and learn how to protect yourself from harm.

Workplace injuries cause dairy worker's death

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has launched an investigation into a recent incident that caused the death of a worker. According to authorities, firefighters from Cal Fire and Riverside County responded to Cottonwood Dairy after receiving a call about severe workplace injuries suffered by an employee. They received the emergency call shortly before 10:45 a.m. on a recent Thursday.

First responders arrived at the scene to find a worker who had suffered critical injuries. Sadly, there was nothing they could do to save the worker's life. Upon their arrival at the scene, the victim's heart had stopped, and their report indicates that the injured worker was in full arrest. Few details were reported, except that some farm equipment crushed the worker.

Some work accidents might lead to wrongful death lawsuits

Although the workers' compensation insurance program of the state typically covers injured workers in California, the circumstances of some workplace accidents might provide grounds for civil lawsuits. Filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim could lead to more than the basic compensation typically offered by the workers' compensation system. An incident that caused the death of a truck driver in another state might lead to such a lawsuit.

Commercial truck drivers are not typically responsible for the repairs and maintenance of their trucks. However, some commercial truck owners require their drivers to assist with repairs. Those who are tasked with maintenance must receive adequate safety training before they are allowed in the service areas. In the case in which the trucker died, he was present while two mechanics attempted to repair or replace a flat inside tire on the rear left side of a truck.

Workplace injuries: What are MSDs?

Every day, thousands of workers in California suffer the consequences of musculosketal disorders, or MSDs. These types of workplace injuries can cause aggravated, strained or sprained tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels and discs. If left untreated, these injuries can cause long-term health problems.

Ergonomic and individual risk factors contribute to MSDs. Ergonomic MSDs are caused by tasks that require the worker to repeat the same motions for hours on end. Safety authorities say repetitive work cycles that exceed 30 seconds without breaks are considered to be highly repetitive. If those tasks require force, chances of developing MSDs are even higher, especially if the job requires the worker to maintain an awkward body posture while working, which can strain and overload joints.

Refusing to do unsafe work is your right and your responsibility

Regardless of your occupation, you are sure to face safety hazards. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) holds your employer responsible for the safety and health of you and your co-workers. Did you know that you have the right to refuse to do unsafe work?

An unsafe work environment could threaten not only you and your co-workers but also visitors to the facility where you work. For that reason, refusing and reporting dangerous conditions is more than your right, it is also your responsibility.

How does workers' compensation treat pre-existing injury

When California workers are involved in workplace accidents that caused significant aggravation to pre-existing injuries, they might be eligible for compensation. However, not all injuries qualify as pre-existing. Only injuries or illnesses that are linked to events or exposure that are not work-related will be regarded as pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, other requirements must also be met before a workers' compensation benefits claim will be valid.

Injuries that will be considered include those for which no medical care was required until a work-related event aggravated it. Also, if the existing medical treatment of an old injury must be changed as the result of work-related exposure or injury, it might be regarded as a pre-existing condition. Furthermore, if such an event causes lost workdays, a transfer or restricted work, which was not required before, it might indicate a pre-existing injury or illness.

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Law Offices of Anthony Choe
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