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San Diego Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Employee rights when it comes to workers' compensation benefits

Members of the California workforce know that a workplace accident can happen at any time. For this reason, it is crucial for them to understand their employee rights when it comes to workers' compensation benefits. To avoid delays in benefits payments, it is essential to get medical attention immediately, and even go to the hospital if necessary. The next step is to inform the employer of the injury as soon as possible.

An injured worker might be smart to document the details of the injury, the circumstances that led to it and even witness statements to avoid instances of an employer challenging or denying a claim. Furthermore, he or she must keep notes of visits to doctors or therapists, doctor and hospital bills, and other expenses. Copies will have to accompany the benefits claim.

California firefighter succumbs to workplace injuries

Every year, firefighters in California put their lives on the line to protect the property and lives of others. Sadly, some of these brave workers suffer fatal workplace injuries. The U.S. Fire Administration says more than 50 firefighters have lost their lives so far this year.

Earlier this month, a pilot in an airplane spotted an overturned bulldozer and advised authorities. Rescue workers rushed to the scene where they discovered that the massive machine had rolled over, pinning the operator and crushing him to death. He was a 36-year-old firefighter who was on duty when the accident happened. The man was working with a CAL FIRE unit, fighting a fire in the Sierra National Forest.

Hair stylists face multiple occupational hazards

Occupational injuries can happen in any work environment in California, and just because a hairdressing salon seems a glamorous, exciting and fun place to work does not mean stylists face no risks. In fact, salons pose multiple hazards that can cause long-term health problems. If you spend most of your workdays on your feet in a salon, you might have realized how fragile your body is.

Along with the musculoskeletal strain you put on your body, there are several other health risks present in your work environment. Being aware of them might provide some protection from harm.

The challenge of getting approved for disability benefits

San Diego workers who suffer debilitating injuries or illnesses that prevent them from returning to work will likely need some financial assistance to support themselves. Those who are still younger than retirement age might be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits if their disabilities are expected to last longer than one year, or if their condition is terminal. However, it is a time-consuming process, and applying at the earliest opportunity is essential.

It is said that most initial applications are denied, and although that does not necessarily exclude a worker from receiving benefits, the process will be long and complicated. There are more than 225 severe conditions that qualify for fast-tracking under the compassionate allowances program of the government. However, others might have to apply for a hearing to review their cases for eligibility -- a process that could take up to two years.

What is an ergonomic workplace injury?

Administrative workers in San Diego will likely agree that uncomfortable work environments can adversely affect productivity and also increase the probability of musculoskeletal injuries and eyestrain. For this reason, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health provides guidelines for employers to assist with establishing ergonomically safe workstations to prevent workplace injury. Ergonomics involve adapting workstations and tasks to fit the worker to cause less physical stress that could cause debilitating musculoskeletal disorders.

The standards outlined by safety authorities cover the improvement of accessibility and visibility. An ergonomically safe desk will be set up to suit the worker's height. If it is too high, the worker must maintain elevated forearms, wrists and hands for hours on end, causing shoulder and neck muscles to spasm from fatigue. A desk that is too low requires the worker's trunk to flex, and this leads to the hyperextension of the neck. When setting up the monitor, the ideal height to allow the spine to remain in a natural position is in line with or slightly lower than eye level.

California restaurants found in violation of employee rights

Certain locations of Cheesecake Factory restaurants were recently found to be in violation of proper employment practices. Several California locations of the restaurant were investigated and were found to be guilty of employee rights violations. The Labor Commissioner's Office awarded janitorial workers after the investigation was concluded. 

This is not the first case of problems with wage theft at the Cheesecake Factory. During this case, the Cheesecake Factory restaurants and its janitorial subcontractors were found liable in a $4.57 million dollar case. Over 500 janitorial workers were awarded $3.94 million. The awards were due to damages, penalties, missed meals and rest time breaks, minimum wages and overtime. 

Security guards face many unique safety hazards

The safety of security guards who protect businesses, private property and those who work or reside there does not always receive the consideration it deserves. In many cases, these workers are members of underrepresented economic communities who are unsure of their rights if they suffer on-the-job injuries. If you are a security guard in California, becoming familiar with potential occupational hazards might help you to stay safe.

The risks you face will be related to the post that you hold. Your allocated security duties could be within the confines of a company. Such a position requires careful organization and cooperation between the security company and the client, with full disclosure about inherent hazards that might threaten the security guard's safety. The duties and responsibilities of both parties must be clear to avoid interference and confusion.

Are psychological workplace injuries covered by workers' comp?

Employees in San Diego who are employed in high-risk jobs may frequently experience anxiety over the welfare of their families if something should happen that would prevent them from returning to work. They would likely find comfort in knowing that the workers' compensation system will provide financial relief if they happen to suffer physical workplace injuries. However, confusion might exist about coverage for psychological conditions caused by occupational stress, anxiety and emotional distress.

To determine eligibility for workers' compensation benefits, the cause of the psychological condition -- as with physical injuries -- must be work-related. The cause need not be something that happened in the workplace, but if it happened elsewhere, it must have been in the course of the victims employment. Examples include firefighters, paramedics and police officers who handle traumatic and stressful situations multiple times every day. Many of these workers suffer PTSD, depression and other mental conditions. If the worker can prove that workplace conditions caused it, even alcoholism might be covered by the insurance provider -- the same will apply if employment circumstances exacerbate a pre-existing condition.

Involving workers in safety planning can limit workplace injuries

San Diego business owners will no doubt be aware that happy and healthy employees benefit the bottom line. Not only do they improve production, but insurance premiums can be kept to a minimum by preventing workplace injuries. Regardless of the industry, injuries can happen in any workplace, and set protocols to identify potential problems may be the place to start. These could include wet spots caused by spills or leaks, and random objects or debris on walkways. Another potential risk in all industries is heavy objects that can cause back problems for those who have to lift and carry them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides signage that can be placed to indicate hazardous areas. Signage can include mounted warnings and floor markings to indicate potential risks, such as those present in loading docks. Involving employees in developing and maintaining plans to avoid injuries can benefit all. A logical list of steps to take to prevent injuries can form part of this plan.

California court aims to protect employee rights for gig workers

In recent years, the gig economy has expanded across several industries as technology changes the way people work. Gig economy employers have relied heavily on the use of independent contractors to make their services available at affordable prices. However, some of the workers say they are being misclassified and are being denied their employee rights. A recent California Supreme Court ruling sided with the workers, saying that they should be offered the same benefits as employees using something called the ABC test standard. 

The ABC test is a three-part measure of whether a worker should be considered an employee or an independent contractor. If a worker is to be considered an independent contractor, he or she must be able to provide the service free from the company's control, the service the person provides must be outside the company's core business and the contractor must be an independent professional that also offers similar services to other businesses. In the gig economy, for example, an Uber driver that has no previous driving experience and who does not also work for other driving companies is unlikely to be considered a contractor. 

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