Devastating wildfires in California threaten the lives of countless residents. Thousands of firefighters battle the blaze around the clock to contain the rapidly expanding Thomas fire and save lives. Unfortunately, with the variety of threats to which firefighters are exposed, workplace accidents are prevalent, and some of them end in fatalities.
The California Code of Regulations governs the measures required for employers to protect workers from illness and injury. Compliance by employers is vital during the effort to get control of wildfires because the smoke contains tiny particles, gases and chemicals that can be harmful to the health of firefighters. The most severe threat is the inhalation of fine particles because it could hurt lung function and exacerbate existing ailments such as asthma, lung and heart conditions. Workers may experience difficulty breathing along with wheezing and coughing.
Safety agencies say indoor workers are also at risk, and it recommends the use of filtered ventilation systems to keep the smoke out. Further suggestions include limiting the times of exposure for outdoor workers, although that may not be practical for those fighting the California wildfires. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also prescribes the use of dust masks, and in circumstances of particularly hazardous and unhealthy conditions, approved respirators must be provided to firefighters.
Workers who suffered injuries while fighting fires in California may be entitled to seek assistance with the financial consequences of such events. The workers’ compensation insurance program offers benefits that cover medical expenses and lost income. Injured victims of workplace accidents must report their injuries to their employers and provide medical reports and bills with the claims they file for insurance benefits. The help of experienced workers’ compensation attorneys is available for the navigation of the claims process.
Source: dir.ca.gov, “Protecting Workers Exposed to Smoke from Wildfires“, Accessed on Dec. 15, 2017