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Los Angeles Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Safety responsibilities of employers

Employers in California and around the country are obligated to follow certain safety guidelines that have been established by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If these are not adhered to, an employer may be issued citations and fines for the violations by the agency. Records of these citations must then be posted near the unsafe work area until the matter is corrected.

One of the main responsibilities of an employer is to provide a workplace that is free from serious hazards. Employers must also regularly inspect the work environment to ensure that there are no hazards and the area is safe according to OSHA standards. If there are unavoidable hazards that cannot be removed from a work environment, employers must use clear signs, posters and labels to warn workers about the potential dangers.

A look at nursing-related injury rates and how to prevent them

Los Angeles workers may be interested in some information about workplace injuries in the health care field and how they could be prevented. Due to the failure of the state and federal governments to enact legislation, however, these serious workplace issues remain largely unresolved, according to one source.

The rate of on-the-job injury for nurses and orderlies is higher than any other occupation, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these injuries are the result of moving patients without the proper equipment. According to a spokesperson from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, this often leaves nurses with shortened careers due to disabilities caused by these injuries. However, studies show that changes in equipment and training can lead to a vast reduction in these types of workers' injuries. One program showed a 40 percent average reduction while another found that injuries were reduced by 80 percent after introducing new equipment for lifting and moving patients.

McDonald's employees allege poor treatment after burn injuries

California residents might not give much thought to the employees behind the counter or drive-thru when ordering a Big Mac and fries at McDonald's, but employees at the huge fast food chain have filed 28 complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The complaints cite working conditions that led to burns along with inadequate treatment after injuries.

Workers in 19 U.S. cities shared their issues about conditions at McDonald's on March 16 as part of a labor campaign led by the Service Employees International Union called "Fight for 15." The employees allege the pressure to work quickly combined with staff shortages has led to grease burns, but the restaurants do not have the protective equipment or first-aid supplies to combat the burns.

Fall prevention at construction sites

As some California workers know, falls may occur when walls are erected during building construction. Workers need to be aware of why falls happen and precautions that can be used to prevent them. After fall protection is in place, workers require training to use such protection properly.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers guidelines to help employers keep workers safe. Federal regulations mandate that standard fall protection methods must be used in the workplace. An employer may not be able to provide such protection and must provide reasons why conventional methods will not work. The employer must say in writing why standard fall protection, if used, would cause a hardship or if fall protection presented a bigger threat to worker safety. In such cases, the employer must develop a written plan that meets the specific needs of the work site. Workers are then trained in the use of such safety precautions.

A report on the inadequacy of workers' compensation

An injury that keeps a California worker from earning a living can be financially devastating. Although workers' compensation is designed to help workers in dealing with such challenges after suffering a work-related injury or illness, two separate entities have discovered that at least 30 states have cut such benefits, making it more difficult for workers to manage after filing for benefits.

Pro Publica partnered with NPR to investigate such concerns in 2014. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration took similar steps in the same time period. In both cases, reports noted that state laws have caused the system to be slanted in favor of businesses while leaving workers and their families to deal with major challenges. Reports note that insurers and businesses blame high costs for the reductions in benefits to injured workers. However, the reports in question noted that the rates being paid by companies to carry workers' compensation insurance are at the lowest point in decades. Taxpayers are carrying the costs instead.

The dangers that nail guns pose

While many construction workers, roofers and homeowners in California rely on nail guns to assist them with their work, these tools can cause serious injuries that could prove fatal. In fact, statistics reveal that approximately 37,000 people are admitted to the emergency room annually because of a nail gun injury. These injuries commonly happen when residential siding and roofing work is being performed, and especially while a home is being framed and sheathed.

The majority of these injuries are to the fingers and hands, with about a quarter of hand injuries affecting the victim's bones, nerves, joints or tendons. A small amount of people suffer injuries to their head, trunk and neck, while others have been left with broken bones, blindness or spinal cord damage from a nail gun accident. The most hazardous nail gun to use is the coil and stick type because it utilizes the biggest nails. These tools are typically used for framing and attaching siding, shingles and wood to a structure and require training to use correctly.

California refinery explodes, four injured

A Feb. 18 explosion at ExxonMobil's Torrance refinery caused area residents to wonder if there had been an earthquake. It also resulted in minor injuries to four workers. The 8:50 a.m. incident demanded the attention of nearly 50 firefighters because of a ground blaze. The explosion also activated a safety system that launched flares into the air.

Reports indicate that gasoline played a role in the explosion and fire, which occurred in a processing unit. However, the officials did not clearly identify the cause during the initial day of investigation. The community's air tested within normal air quality ranges although a smoke advisory was initiated. The explosion's severity was equivalent to an earthquake with a 1.7 magnitude based on area seismological readings.

Worker suffers burns at California brewery

An Anheuser-Busch brewery worked was seriously injured when he fell into a vat of hot mash at the Van Nuys bottling plant on Feb. 8. The accident occurred just before 1 p.m., according to authorities.

A representative with the Los Angeles Fire Department said the injured man, who is in his 40s, was trying to funnel mash sediments into a tanker truck at the facility on Roscoe Boulevard when he somehow fell into the mixture, which was 180 degrees. He was able to pull himself out of the mash vat before rescuers arrived.

The dangers of unsafe vibration levels in the workplace

Construction workers in California who use hand-held power tools can be exposed to dangerous levels of vibration. Depending on the type of vibration, workers can suffer from various injuries that may include carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain. In severe cases, repeated exposure to vibration could eventually result in affected workers having their fingertips amputated.

Vibration hazards in the workplace are classified as either hand-arm vibration or whole-body vibration. In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome, hand-arm vibration can cause other hand and finger injuries that could result in a worker losing sensation, dexterity and grip. Whole-body vibration is one of the leading causes of lost workdays because it can cause a worker to suffer from severe lower back injuries. Some of the tools that are commonly associated with vibration injuries include grinders, sanders, impact drills and some construction vehicles.

Safety while telecommuting

As many California residents may know, the incidence of working from home has increased in the last few decades. Businesses and governmental agencies have recognized the benefits inherent in this situation. Since employers have a responsibility to keep employees safe at work, liability of staying safe while telecommuting has become a question for employees and employers alike.

California began a telecommuting program for state employees in the 1980s, after investigating its feasibility, and it proved to be popular. One concern of telecommuting that continues today is the subject of safety in the home office and the potential liability of the employer in the event of an accident while on office time. Some businesses address home worker safety by using a checklist that the employee must sign. The checklist covers items such as general safety, electrical hazards, security of office materials, inventories with serial numbers and other matters designed to improve safety.