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San Diego Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Crane collapse causes fatal workplace injuries

Construction sites in San Diego and across the state of California pose numerous life-threatening hazards. This was the case at an Oxnard building site where two construction workers suffered workplace injuries on a recent Thursday. The accident happened on the construction site for a 60,000-square-foot building.

Reportedly, an emergency call was made to the fire department at approximately 1:40 p.m. to report an incident that involved a crane collapse. Firefighters learned that the falling crane struck some workers. Authorities say there were 10 to 15 members of the construction crew on-site when the incident happened.

Workplace injuries in California can include Valley Fever

Although most workers in San Diego are aware of the cave-in risks linked to trench work, other hazards exist of which they might not be aware. Two workers who were members of a trench-digging crew last summer might have taken precautions to prevent workplace injuries in the event of a cave-in. It appears they were unprepared for the risk of contracting Coccidioidomycosis -- also known as Valley Fever. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health recently issued citations for safety violations to the underground construction company that employed the workers.

Valley Fever is an occupational disease that is caused by the inhalation of harmful spores that become airborne during activities that disturb the soil. Employers must take precautions to limit the amount of dust, and provide workers with respiratory protection. Cal/OSHA investigators determined that the employer made no effort to mitigate potential health concerns when workers had to dig trenches to gain access to gas lines in counties known to pose Valley Fever risks.

How can newer, greener technology place workers at risk?

If you work in construction in California, you understand first hand how difficult this job can be. There are various risks associated with working in this specific industry, and employers should strive to implement safety and take steps to make workers as safe as reasonably possible. This includes emphasizing safety when introducing new or green technology.

There is an ongoing emphasis on reducing waste, using more sustainable materials and using technology to make construction more efficient. While there are many positive elements to implementing technology and making construction greener, there are risks as well. If you work in construction, it is in your interests to know how you may be at risk and how you can protect your interests.

Threats of workplace injuries can include bloodborne pathogens

Workers in all industries can find themselves in situations in which they are exposed to bloodborne pathogens. However, health care workers, first responders and housekeepers in San Diego's hospitality industry are at the highest risk. Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms that could be present in human blood, and they could cause infections.

Needlestick injuries or punctures from other sharp objects that might contain human blood can cause various infections, of which the most prevalent include hepatitis B and C viruses as well as the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. Employers must provide proper disposal units for sharp objects. Workers must be equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment for any incidents in which they might be exposed to bloodborne pathogens.

Employee rights of nurses who are victims of violence

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has already established standards to protect nurses against violent patients in San Diego and across the state. National Nurses United is now asking that safety standards be established across the country. Over the years, thousands of nurses have been seriously injured in assaults by patients, and many could not return to work. The employee rights for these workers is a significant concern. Recently, a nurse in another state was a victim of an assault.

The nurse says she was injured while helping other nurses and security guards subdue a 150-pound 11-year-old boy who was known to be violent. The patient kicked her in her throat, causing critical injuries that required emergency surgery. She was unable to return to work, and she says obtaining workers' compensation benefits involved a three-year battle before her claims were accepted. The nurse says she suspects the reason for the initial denial of her benefits claims was the facility's unwillingness to report the incident.

Retail workers face many threats of workplace injuries

Owners of retail stores in San Diego must protect the safety of both their customers and their employees. The hazards to which workers in retail stores are exposed do not always receive the necessary consideration. Workplace injuries in this industry often result from mismatched job requirements to employees' physical capabilities. Overexertion from frequent lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying of merchandise could lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

Without mechanical systems to cycle fresh air through the facility, stores without windows to open can build up accumulations of fungus, mold and other health threats. Retail workers also face fire hazards due to inappropriately stored chemicals, the proximity of heat sources and combustibles, damaged electrical cords, and more. All retail employees should be familiar with the locations of fire extinguishers and the proper way to use them.

Will your work-related injury as a telecommuter be questioned?

The playing field of employment in California has undergone drastic changes in recent years. Many employers embrace the rapidly developing gig economy -- a free market system in which organizations create temporary positions for contracted employees to complete short-term engagements, often in their own time and not on the employer's premises. While this might benefit the bottom lines of businesses, the workers receive no benefits, and if they should suffer injuries while engaged in the project, the employer's workers' compensation insurance will not provide coverage.

This is where telecommuting comes in. Your employer can save significantly by limiting the need for office facilities and everything that goes with it by allowing you and other employees to set up offices in your homes. From their homes, employees can do their jobs by utilizing the internet along with the ever-advancing technological and digital business tools. Business owners classify telecommuters as permanent employees who receive typical benefits, including coverage by the state-regulated workers' compensation system.

Workplace injuries caused by violence can happen at any time

Workplace violence is a significant concern for many workers in San Diego. Along with the usual risks of workplace injuries, they have to deal with this added threat. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, every year sees approximately two million workers nationwide who fall victim to workplace violence. The agency warns that, although some are more vulnerable than others, no worker is immune.

Although many such incidents involve homicide and physical assaults, even verbal abuse and threats can constitute workplace violence. Those who are at a higher risk than most include employees in jobs where money changes hands. Also, lone workers and those who work together in smaller groups, and employees on late-night or early-morning shifts face these risks.

Starbucks workers sign petition over employee rights

Starbucks is considering its options to improve worker safety after learning of almost 4,000 signatures on an online petition. Those who signed the petition claim that their employee rights to safe work environments are violated because of exposure to used needles that are discarded in bathrooms. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplaces in San Diego and other cities nationwide must be free from recognized safety hazards.

Reportedly, workers have to remove trash cans from the bathrooms as a part of their duties, and they claim that wearing gloves and using tongs for disposing of the used needles does not provide enough protection. They are asking Starbucks to arrange for the installation of needle-disposal boxes in bathrooms. The opioid epidemic has affected businesses nationwide, and both customers and some employees who are battling addictions discard the needles in tampon disposal boxes, bathrooms and diaper changing facilities.

Employee rights to workers' comp not linked to OSHA citations

Workers nationwide, including San Diego, California, are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages -- and more in some cases -- if they suffered work-related injuries. These employee rights to benefits are based on a no-fault system, meaning that they can file benefits claims even if they were at fault. A recent case in another state demonstrates that even if a judge throws out a fine issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it will not jeopardize the injured worker's rights to compensation.

In that case, an OSHA citation was appealed by a poultry processing plant owner. The fine arose from an incident in which a worker was ordered to clean the area below a conveyor belt while it was working. It appears the worker lost his balance and grabbed onto the conveyor's underside. An unguarded, ingoing nip-point caught his arm and caused a compound fracture.

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