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Orange County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Alteration to OSHA reporting rule a positive safety step

Did you know that when a workplace accident occurs, the company doesn't have to inform the Occupational Safety and Health Administration unless an employee is killed or at least three workers are hospitalized for their injuries? That's the way the current rule is drawn up -- but in a major revision to the rule, companies will now also be required to inform OSHA if a worker suffers an amputation or loses an eye in a workplace accident.

Obviously this is a grim topic, and you may debate whether this is a "major" rule change. But when you consider that this data is not readily available right now (at least to OSHA), the fact that amputations and eye loss will be recorded in the future is important. It could lead to improved safety in some dangerous workplaces that, right now, essentially have such injuries covered up.

Some workers in oil and gas industry face increased risk of blood cancer

According to a recent study by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, certain workers in the oil and gas industries may be at higher risk of blood cancers such as leukemia due to routine exposure to high levels of benzene. A known carcinogen, benzene is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in terms of how much exposure workers can have. Exceptions are made for some activities within the industry, though, including the process of hydraulic fracturing.

The study is apparently the first one to look at actual human samples to determine exposure levels. There are some limitations to the study, though, particularly the fact that the sample size is relatively small. Researchers recommended that employers within the industry take action to limit workers' exposure, including limiting exposure times, monitoring exposure levels, and using respiratory and hand protection.

California owner liable for fatal workplace accident in 2013

Last November, the owner of a California development company reportedly engaged some of his employees to carry out routine tree trimming duties at his own property. Unfortunately, none of the men had received the proper training for the task and a fatal workplace accident was the result. The owner of the home and business is now facing a possible prison sentence and fines totaling $1 million dollars.

The accident apparently occurred when a 42-year-old man was using a rented aerial boom to reach a large tree on the boss's property. As he attempted to remove a large branch, it struck him on the head. He then was jarred out of the bucket and hit the ground below. After Cal/OSHA conducted an investigation, the owner was found to be in violation of several serious safety protocols.

While cleaning out tanker with ethanol fumes, worker dies

A fatal work accident in Nevada has raised concerns about the environment and conditions that people who clean tanker cars have to endure. The incident didn't occur here in California, but it happened just across state line in Nevada.

A 47-year-old man was working at a railyard last month and he was assigned to clean one of the tanker cars that was being stored there. This tanker car had ethanol vapors in it, presumably from a previous cargo, and the fumes overwhelmed the 47-year-old and eventually made him lose consciousness. Unfortunately, this led to his asphyxiation. 

Workers' comp a tough road, but a road worth traveling

It really is amazing how hard legislators have made it to acquire workers' compensation benefits here in California. 10 years ago, new rules were passed that significantly impacted workers' comp applicants, putting them at a disadvantage. Even if the legislation wasn't necessarily meant to discourage people from applying, it probably has had such a side effect.

All types of workers' comp benefits were limited or reduced in some way. For example, the maximum amount of time on temporary disability was reduced to 104 weeks, while permanent disability recipients saw the vocational rehabilitation stipend of up to $16,000 removed in favor of a retraining voucher. In total, the approval of Senate 899 completely changed the way injured workers are treated here in California, and that's a shame.

Even after quitting, worker gets workers' comp for injury

Imagine for a moment that you go into work one day and you're not in a great mood. You've been working there for a long time and in recent months, you have become unsatisfied with the work environment and you feel you aren't respected. So you clock in and talk with your manager, who informs you that you have a particularly tough shift on tap. You request that some of the work be delegated because of all the hard work you have done recently, but your boss declines your request.

You decide enough is enough, and you quit. You inform your boss, who accepts your decision. As you prepare to leave, your boss instructs you to go clean out an area where some of your personal belongings are located. As you go to that spot, you trip on a piece of equipment and injure yourself. Here's the question: can you obtain workers' compensation for the injury?

Collapse of structure highlights dangers of construction sites

A construction accident in Los Angeles resulted in a destroyed building and many questions about the project and the safety of the construction site. A parking structure was under construction when the building partially collapsed. Emergency responders found a scene of rubble and destruction, but thankfully no one was injured in the accident. Investigators first believed that an object fell from a construction crane, but it turned out that excessive weight from building materials placed on the structure caused the collapse.

The collapse was so severe that two nearby apartments had to be evacuated as a safety precaution.

1 worker electrocuted, another shocked on scaffolding at school

Questions remain about a workplace accident in Orange County that electrocuted one worker and left another in serious condition. This tragedy occurred at a high school, but school district officials are not sure who hired the victims’ employer to do the job.

The victims were working on scaffolding on the grounds of Mission Viejo High on July 17. They were part of a three-man crew hanging a banner to advertise a school event. Nearby, the school’s freshman baseball team was playing.

Teen landscaper dies in accident on 2nd day on the job

One of the best ways to ensure safe usage of dangerous work equipment is to make sure the workers have proper training. Lack of training is a major cause of serious work accidents in California. A recent tragedy could have been due to the fact that a teenage worker did not know how to avoid getting caught in an auger.

The victim, 19, had taken a summer job with a landscaping company in Washington state. It is not clear if he had any prior experience with landscaping, but given his age, it seem likely that he had little to no experience in the field. Still, the company promised him 60 hours a week of work, his mother said.

Construction worker knocked off overpass in Orange County

A scary early-morning work site accident on Interstate 405 in Orange County may have seriously injured a construction worker. The worker fell off a partially-completed overpass onto the road below. His injuries were not known at the time, but one can imagine that a fall from such a height is likely to cause significant harm.

The victim was working with a crew that was building a new overpass for I-405 near the I-605 interchange. Around 2:45 a.m. one June morning, the crew was setting 130-foot beams on the overpass. One of the beams somehow bumped into two that were already set, causing all three to crash down into I-405’s southbound side.

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