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Encino California Workers' Compensation Blog

Workers' compensation: Young workers are not invincible

Thousands of teenagers in California are likely looking forward to their summer jobs. Employers who take on young workers will probably be aware that many of them enter the workforce feeling invincible. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires business owners to provide adequate safety training and information about workers' compensation eligibility.

Regardless of whether young workers start their jobs this summer in temporary or permanent positions, they will be entitled to worker's compensation benefits if they should suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. This applies even for those who are younger than 18 years, and they need not be legal U.S. residents to receive benefits. It is a no-fault system that pays benefits regardless of who was at fault.

The hazards cancer drugs pose to pregnant health care workers

Safety authorities expressed concern about the results of a study done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Analyzed data shows that a significant percentage of pregnant health care workers fail to protect themselves and their unborn babies against the hazards posed by powerful cancer drugs. Over 40,000 nurses in North America, including California, participated in the research.

Reportedly, almost 40% of the pregnant nurses who participated do not wear protective gowns when they administer antineoplastic drugs used for chemotherapy. A significant number also admitted to working with these dangerous drugs without wearing protective gloves. Safety authorities recommend that all health care workers should wear prescribed protective gowns and gloves as personal protective equipment.

Shortcuts put the lives of construction workers on the line

Following the tragic loss of lives after a crane collapse in another state, concern was raised about safety issues nationwide. One individual has more than 40 years of experience in the industry, including some years working as a crane operator and technician. He was certified as an inspector by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and also by the safety authorities of the state in which the recent collapse claimed the lives of construction workers.

In 2008 he had to climb down a 460-foot high machine prior to it being disassembled. Apparently, all the bolts on the mast had been loosened to speed up the dismantling process. He left the construction site and claimed his warnings were disregarded. When two workers were killed in a similar collapse in another state in 2012, he determined that the bolts had not only been loosened but also removed prematurely. He sounded the alarm publicly about the dangers of these shortcuts that were found to be common practice by dismantling crews.

Has your workers comp claim led to retaliation?

Recovering from an injury acquired in the workplace is hard enough. You don’t want to cause problems; you just want to feel better. Few things make recovery worse than retaliation from your employer for filing a worker’s compensation claim.

Retaliation can show itself in several ways. You may have seen your earnings reduced by cutbacks to your hours or salary after filing your claim. Perhaps your employer transferred or demoted you to a less-favorable position. Other disciplinary actions are possible instances of retaliation as well.

EMS and health care workers should not forget eye protection

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, wearing protective gloves is like second nature for EMS and health care workers; however, many fail to wear adequate eye protection. This applies to workers in California and other states. The AAO says almost 20,000 eye injuries are reported each year in all industries, and nine in 10 of the victims of those injuries did not wear protective eyewear. A 2016 study determined that wearing eye protection is a matter of personal preference and not seen as an essential part of workplace safety.

The lack of eye protection put EMS workers at risk of injuries caused by various airborne particles of debris, flying objects, chemicals and fluids. These workers are frequently exposed to bloodborne pathogens, and their eyes are often exposed to harmful UV rays. Regular prescription eyeglasses do not protect against any of these objects or substances that could make contact with the health care workers' mucous membranes in their eyes.

Workers' compensation: Heat stress threatens California workers

Prompt treatment of heat stress symptoms can prevent it from developing into a life-threatening condition. Every year, thousands of California workers file workers' compensation claims for preventable work-related health issues. It is crucial for workers in all industries to learn how to recognize the telltale signs of heat illness in themselves and their co-workers.

The first red flags for workers in hot environments are heat cramps that can be painful and cause brief discomfort. The muscle cramps can occur immediately or during the hours following exertion. Heat exhaustion can develop if the cramps are ignored. This condition can result from water depletion, which will cause excessive thirst, headache, weakness and loss of consciousness. Salt depletion can also cause heat exhaustion, causing muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

Workers' compensation: Many injuries follow unsafe practices

Safety authorities say many workplace accidents nationwide, including California, happen as the result of unsafe practices rather than hazardous work environments. Fortunately, the state-regulated workers' compensation program is a no-fault system that pays benefits regardless of who was at fault. So even if a worker makes a mistake that causes an injury, he or she will likely still be eligible for insurance benefits.

Some of the common mistakes workers make include taking shortcuts what increases the injury risks. Complacency and overconfidence often develop after years of doing the same job, and it could lead to using improper tools, work methods and more. Mental distractions, such as focusing on personal problems rather than focusing on the task to be done, could pose additional hazards.

Cancer-causing smoke threatens health care workers in ORs

Many workers in California are exposed to carcinogens on the job every day. One cancer-causing agent that might not be well-known is surgical smoke. Health care workers who spend significant time in operating rooms have an elevated risk of contracting cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says surgical smoke is as hazardous as cigarette smoke.

Different tools and equipment such as lasers and electro-surgery units cause the smoke hazards in ORs, and patients are as exposed as health care workers. A nurse who spends many hours in an operating room commented that the level of smoke in the OR could be compared to an airport lounge where smoking is allowed. She says surgical masks do not protect against the hazards of surgical smoke.

Hazardous drugs and drug waste threaten health care workers

Hazardous drugs and drug waste threaten the safety of millions of workers in California and across the country. Along with health care workers, others in the life cycle of some dangerous drugs face similar risks of potential exposure. Contamination can happen via various routes of entry into the bodies of workers involved in shipping, receiving, distribution, transport, compounding, administering and the ultimate disposal of hazardous drug waste.

Nonclinical at-risk workers include those involved in housekeeping, maintenance and laundry at facilities where hazardous drugs are present, and workers responsible for transporting and disposing of drug waste. Along with health care workers, unintentional contamination threatens family members and visitors of patients to whom hazardous drugs were administered. Contamination can occur through contact with patients' sweat, stool and urine, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Cal/OSHA investigating workplace injury to palm tree trimmer

As California palm trees grow, the older fronds are typically removed when they turn brown. This is a dangerous task, and many palm tree trimmers have suffered severe injuries while working at heights often exceeding 25 feet. When the dead fronds are cut or pulled off, other fronds could collapse onto the worker. The excessive weight of those fronds could trap the worker and cause suffocation.

On a recent Wednesday morning, Firefighters in Fresno rushed to the aid of a palm tree trimmer who was facing suffocation if they could not get to him in time. Reportedly, a homeowner who arranged for landscapers to trim the palm tree in her front yard called 9-1-1 after hearing the tree trimmer's calls for help. The worker was working in the tree at a height of at least 25 feet. The first firefighters to arrive say their 24-foot ladder was too short, and they had to call for additional help.

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