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Los Angeles Workers' Compensation Law Blog

The importance of a company enhancing safety measures

Workers from California may not realize that whenever a company hires large numbers of new employees, or large numbers of employees retire, it can significantly influence workplace safety. Companies that mainly consist of seasoned employees often experience the best safety awareness because employees have a better understanding of what dangers may be present on a job site. However, when a company makes major changes to their infrastructure in a small amount of time without strategically changing safety programs to accommodate new hires, the number of work-related injuries could rise.

Newer employees may be rushed into a job without adequate safety training if a company finds that the majority of their current employees are leaving and needs to fill the gap quickly. An employer may fail to realize that the cycling of employees requires major changes to safety procedures. This specific trend has birthed a new marketplace for enhancing safety measures in the workforce.

Fatalities associated with highway work

As California residents may know, roadway construction workers have a difficult job that can present a hazard to both drivers and the workers. According to statistics presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of the deaths occurring at roadway construction sites remains at over 100 each year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas led the nation in the 11-year period through 2013 in roadway construction deaths with 131 fatalities, followed by Florida. Accidents involving motor vehicles striking a road worker was the cause of 69 percent of the fatalities nationwide. Occupational fatality statistics included tractor-trailer drivers, maintenance workers along the road, construction workers, construction supervisors and equipment operators. About 60 percent of fatal injuries in private sector jobs occurred in civil or heavy engineering construction and specialty work sectors. Two-thirds of all accidents were attributed to transportation accidents, and 69 percent of those fatalities involved a worker on foot being struck.

Contractors fined for work-related fatality

A contractor and a subcontractor have been assessed in excess of $100,000 in fines in connection with a May 2014 fatality. The general contractor on the project, a Colorado company, has been fined $54,935, and the subcontractor, a California company, has been fined $50,850. A 59-year-old man perished in the incident as he worked on a railroad bridge, which collapsed onto the freeway lanes below it.

Highway 91 was closed at the time, clearing the lanes for the work taking place above as a railroad crossing was slated to be removed. The work was part of a $232 million project aimed at improving the highway, and the removal of the overpass was in preparation for widening the area below. The decedent was the only individual to suffer injuries in the construction accident.

Occupational diseases and skin exposures

While most people in California may think of workplace injuries as only including obvious personal physical injuries, exposure to a number of different chemicals can lead to disorders and diseases as well. These occupational or work-related injuries and illnesses may also be covered under workers' compensation.

Chemicals can cause permanent damage by penetrating through the skin. Through constant exposure at work, the buildup of the chemical in the body over time may cause lasting neurological and organ damage. Some people will have immune system reactions to chemicals as their bodies have allergic reactions to the chemical. Others may experience localized irritation at the site of the exposure. These are the two main categories of what are called occupational contact dermatitis. The irritant contact dermatitis accounts for 80 percent of the reported cases.

Construction worker injuries

California residents and people across the nation know how important construction workers are to our economy. However, more than 1,200 workers died on public highways per year between 2003 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highways and streets can be very dangerous places to work.

According to one source, more than 150,000 construction workers are injured each year. Many of these injuries are related to operating heavy machinery on the road and during construction of buildings and houses. Many injuries could be prevented by employers taking extra precautions and adhering to safety regulations.

The safety of workers in the agricultural industry

California one of the top agricultural states in the country, which makes agricultural safety a concern for many of its residents. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's agricultural safety and health program funds research on injuries and illnesses associated with agriculture, and it funds and supports prevention programs.

Nearly 2 million people work full time in agricultural production in the United States. In 2012, nearly 500,000 people under the age of 20 worked on farms on which they resided. In addition, 259,000 youths were employed as farm workers. In 2012, 14,000 youths were injured on U.S. farms. In an average year, 113 farm workers under the age of 20 die from work-related injuries. Most of these deaths involve machinery, including tractors, drowning, and motor vehicles.

Workplace injury statistics in 2013

California residents may be interested to learn that in 2013, the number of workplace injuries continued a trend demonstrating an overall reduction in their incidence. The year brought three million reported work-related injuries and illnesses across the country, which, while high, is a significant decline from those injured in the previous year.

According to a survey study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers declined in 2013. Similarly, the incidence of more serious cases involving missed work, resulting work restrictions or injuries necessitating a job transfer also declined.

Training improves electrical safety for workers

In California, construction, maintenance, agricultural and other workers are exposed to the risk of injury or death from electrical accidents. Construction accidents pose the greatest risk of electrical fatalities. Suchworkers comprise 38 percent of fatalities from electrical accidents. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been significant improvement in electrical safety over the past 20 years.

According to BLS statistics, fatal electrical injuries have dropped by over 50 percent since 1992. Non-fatal injuries from electrical accidents have shown even greater improvement, dropping over 60 percent over the same time-span. The Electrical Safety Foundation International states that improvement in electrical safety can be realized through training for people in high-risk industries.

California worker's injury required amputation

A construction worker was seriously injured in an accident on the evening of Nov. 13 at a work site along state Highway 4 in Antioch. The worker suffered a severe leg injury during the accident, which ultimately required amputation of the limb.

According to information released by the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety, the construction site accident occurred around 6:30 p.m. at a work site near the Hillcrest Avenue exit along Highway 4. When emergency crews arrived at the scene shortly after, they found a worker caught in an auger that was being used to bore holes in the ground. The worker had reportedly lost his footing and became entangled in the running auger's rotating screw blade. Once rescuers had freed the worker from the auger, he was transported by air to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for treatment.

4 workers killed by chemical leak, 1 injured

In California, workplace accidents can involve many types of dangers in addition to the classic equipment or fall hazards. As illustrated by a recent and sobering case out of Texas, workers are sometimes killed or injured while working around and with hazardous substances, such as chemicals.

The incident in Texas occurred at a DuPont chemical plant outside of Houston on Nov. 15. At least five workers were exposed to a chemical used in insecticides, fungicides and as an agent to add smell to natural gas. Neighbors to the plant indicated they had smelled a chemical smell. DuPont officials apparently told local law enforcement authorities that the chemical dissipates quickly in air and was harmless.