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Encino California Workers' Compensation Blog

Health care workers risk their health to tend to others

A Safe Patient Handling Conference is planned in another state, but nurse aids, nurses, orderlies, physical therapists, occupational therapists and emergency medical technicians in California face similar risks and deserve the same attention. Reportedly health care workers nationwide file more claims for musculoskeletal injuries and chronic back pain than workers in any other industry. Safety authorities say the primary cause for lost workdays and benefits claims is unsafe handling of patients, and this will be the focus of the conference.

High-risk activities that are par for the course for health care workers include repositioning patients in their beds and lifting them from their beds to take them to the showers or help them onto toilets. The workers often have to deal with elderly or obese patients, which exacerbates the risk of injuries. Authorities say teaching health care workers also to look after their own health by using safe lifting techniques is crucial, along with facilities to provide lifting equipment to limit overexertion.

Will fewer workers' compensation claims follow new act?

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act. The goal of this law is to provide better protection for firefighters nationwide who are only too familiar with the threats posed by wildfires, and it will also limit workers' compensation claims. Authorities say that 14,000 firefighters battled fires in California during the past summer. Although wildfires in California are not unusual, five firefighters lost their lives during fires over the past year.

One of the tools provided by the new law will see firefighter crews equipped with GPS locators, and they will utilize the mandatory use of drones to scout wildfires and map them. Drones and GPS locators used simultaneously are expected to increase firefighter safety significantly. It is further stipulated that these requirements apply to all firefighter crews, including local, state and federal.

Health care workers face many violence-related threats

Violence threatens employees in various industries. Employers in the health care industry in California have to comply with regulations that came into effect on April 1, 2018. These rules were put in place to ensure the safety of health care workers by developing plans to prevent their exposure to workplace violence. Each facility must establish a unit-specific plan based on the standards set by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Patients often threaten health care workers, and in some cases, family members or other visitors become violent or express threats to workers. Assault, bites and hair-pulling can happen in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, furniture, lamps and other objects can be used to harm health care workers.

Tunnel accident makes Californians reflect on contractor hiring

It’s common knowledge that the construction industry has some of the most dangerous jobs on the market. When people are looking to contract a company to renovate or build something new in a major area, they want experienced workers who can get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Despite the industry’s advancements in safety measures and training protocols in recent decades, some companies have gotten away with questionable actions that can put both the project and the people working on it at risk. An example of this came in August 2018, when a worker died during a construction project at the Twin Peaks Tunnel in San Francisco. His death received widespread media attention and exposed secrets that the contracted company had tried to hide.

Carbon monoxide threat to general laborers, construction workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says recent incidents prompted a reminder to employers nationwide, including California, about the hazards posed by carbon monoxide exposure. The agency says all employees, including general laborers, construction workers and others, face the risk of being overcome by this deadly gas -- often called the silent killer. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is odorless and colorless, and it can be undetected until it is too late to escape.

The threat exists wherever fuel-burning equipment is used in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Portable generators, space heaters, power tools, pumps, compressors, furnaces and welding equipment are all hazardous. Motorized vehicles and gas-powered forklifts also pose high risks. Proper ventilation might mitigate the risk of overexposure.

Workers' compensation availability should not replace safety

Not all California companies prioritize employee safety. Sadly, there are those business owners who believe that carrying workers' compensation insurance is enough, and spending money on creating safe work environments is unnecessary. The reality is that every benefits claim that is filed by an injured worker will increase the company's insurance premiums.

Cutting corners, taking shortcuts and neglecting to provide safety training and personal protective equipment lead to thousands of workplace accidents every year -- many of them causing catastrophic or even fatal injuries. On-the-job injuries cost companies time and money. Unnecessary expenses include not only increased insurance premiums, but also additional wages for temporary workers required while injured employees recover.

Safety of health care workers threatened by chemotherapy drugs

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently reported the outcome of a study that included the participation of 40,000 nurses in a survey about their use of personal protective equipment when they administer chemotherapy medication. Authorities are now concerned about the significant number of health care workers, including some in California, who work with hazardous antineoplastic drugs without protective gear. These drugs are particularly hazardous to female nurses.

Antineoplastic drugs kill cancer cells, but they are toxic, and they can also cause cancer in healthy cells. They could cause mutations, even in fetuses or embryos, impair fertility and cause reproductive toxicity. NIOSH says it is crucial for nurses who are trying to conceive and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding to wear protective gowns and gloves while they administer antineoplastic drugs to patients via intravenous drip or in pill form.

Potential assaults make health care workers vulnerable

Safety authorities say mental health facilities, emergency departments, long-term care facilities and some other medical areas are high-risk settings for workplace violence in California. Along with health care workers' risk exposure to radiation, toxic substances, infectious diseases and back injuries, the threats of assault and battery are ever-present. It is not uncommon for weapons to be found in psychiatric wards and emergency rooms.

Violence toward nurses in facilities for mental health patients could originate from patients and visitors. Authorities say factors that determine vulnerability include the lack of adequate safety training, containment practices, time of day and staffing patterns. Nursing students and inexperienced health care workers are said to be at higher risks of assault, which mostly occur during the containment of patient violence. Other injuries result from battery.

Prompt workers' compensation benefits can speed up recovery

Workers in all industries in California face occupational hazards, and they all need to recover from workplace injuries as soon as possible and return to work. Knowing that the state-regulated insurance system is there for them might provide comfort. However, not all workers' compensation benefits claims proceedings go smoothly. A Triple Crown-winning jockey recently reported the challenges he experienced in his dealings with the California workers' compensation system.

The insurance provider that specifically covers California racetrack employees initially allowed in-home care services and physical therapy, which are crucial for riders who suffered spinal or brain injuries. Then, without prior notice, these treatments were halted. The jockey says although he ultimately managed to get permission to continue the services, stopping the treatment had an adverse impact on his recovery.

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