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Los Angeles Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

Workplace knee injuries in California

When people think about workplace accidents and injuries, knee injuries are probably not one of the first types of injuries that come to mind. Knee injuries, however, are very common, and may result from workplace accidents or may occur as a repetitive stress injury related to the worker's job requirements.

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the management of work-related knee injuries involves addressing environmental and personal factors and includes ongoing treatment needed to correct the problems. The agency has outlined a number of steps medical professionals should take when approaching such injuries, including X-rays, a review of the worker's medical history, physical and arthroscopic examinations and vascular studies if a vascular disruption is also indicated.

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.