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Southern California Injury Law Blog

Working safely in the cold

California residents who have jobs that require them to be outside for the majority or all of the time should know what to do to prevent illnesses or injuries when the weather turns cold during the winter. Limiting exposure to the cold by taking a 15-minute break in a warm area for every hour of work is one rule workers should follow. Being properly dressed is another.

The presence of wind and any amount of moisture on the skin can result in heat leaving the body. Workers should wear breathable layers of clothes that are loose enough that they do not cut off circulation or hinder movement. Wearing clothes in layers also allow workers to remove clothing if they are too warm or if there is a change in the weather.

Thousands of workplaces failing to meet fall protection rules

People in California whose jobs involve being on roofs, working on scaffolds, using ladders or walking near heights do not always receive adequate safety training for fall protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued over 6,000 citations to employers for violations in that category from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017.

Every year, the federal agency issues a top 10 list of its most common workplace safety violations. Failures to meet the general requirements for fall protection occupied the number one spot for the sixth year in a row. Other serious lapses in worker safety occupied the top five spots on the list, such as violations involving respiratory protection and hazards communications.

Caution is still required for winter driving in mild climates

Now that winter is here, you can finally look forward to hot chocolate, warm scarves and – an increased risk of car accidents? Unfortunately for you and other Californians, winter weather often means drivers are likely to slide, skid and spin when the weather turns bad.

You should not be fooled by the typically mild winters we enjoy in Southern California, either. There is always the possibility of an unexpected cold snap causing wet roads to briefly freeze, especially at night. Also, drivers in milder climates may develop a false sense of security and believe road conditions rarely change due to the weather. However, that assumption is incorrect. The following points illustrate the types of hazardous seasonal driving situations you might encounter in this region:

  •        At night and during early morning hours, a thin sheet of dry ice might form beneath underpasses or over bridges, especially near water.
  •        Fog can dramatically reduce visibility.
  •        Fresh rainfall and motor oil residue on the road can create a slippery surface.
  •        Sheets of rainwater on the road can cause hydroplaning.

The safety risks of gig economy work

The gig economy is growing in California and across the U.S. with more and more people engaging in short-term projects for firms, employment agencies, and digital platforms. App-based work is especially on the rise. In fact, the Pew Research Center published a study in 2016 showing that 8 percent of American adults earned income from online gig work in 2015 with 29 percent saying the money was essential to their day-to-day living.

This makes the health and safety risks of gig-economy work all the more troubling. For example, transportation network workers and bicycle messengers have high injury and fatality rates. Many companies consider gig workers to be independent contractors. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, these kinds of workers are liable for their own safety and health. Therefore, independent contractors do not receive workers' compensation or a minimum wage.

Data shows more deaths on Thanksgiving than other holidays

There's a reason why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns drivers to stay safe on the roads every Thanksgiving: this day may be the most deadly holiday of the year. Residents of California should also know that it's a fatal day for many with heart conditions.

According to data from the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 764 crashes involving fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2012. This was more than on Christmas of that year. There were also more than 50,000 non-fatal crashes over that long weekend.

Making workplace safety simple and effective

Employers in California and throughout the country should aim to make their safety programs as easy to understand. Although legal departments may want to cover as many issues as possible, having too many rules may make it difficult to make decisions. Instead of creating rules, it may be easier to establish principles that guide decision-making processes related to employee safety.

Ideally, employers will teach workers to make good decisions. While safety may mean different things to different people, asking employees what they think safety means may help to get at those core principles. For some, safety means slowing down as rushing to get a job done can be the cause of an accident. For others, safety means thinking through an action before following through.

The often overlooked dangers of nursing

There are many dangerous jobs. When most people think about a dangerous workplace, though, they think of heavy, sharp equipment and battling natural elements. Jobs like logging, fishing and oil rigs come to mind. In truth, nursing is one of the most dangerous jobs across the country.

Workplace injuries are common among inexperienced workers

The first few months spent in a new job can be extremely hazardous for workers in California and around the country, according to a study from the Institute for Work and Health and figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Toronto-based IWH found that workers with three or fewer months of experience are three times more likely to be injured on the job, and BLS data reveals that almost a third of the workers who suffered nonfatal workplace injuries in 2013 had less than one year of experience.

According to the IWH, the accident risks are higher among new workers because they perform unfamiliar, and possibly dangerous, tasks and are often reluctant to speak up about the safety hazards they encounter on the job. Most occupational safety advocates agree that proper training is the key to reducing workplace injuries, but eight out of 10 of the workers surveyed by the IWH in 2012 said that they could not recall receiving any workplace orientation or safety instruction.

Shift work leads to drowsy driving even on short commutes

Night shift work is an unavoidable part of some California industries. In fact, more than 9.5 million people across the U.S. work a night or rotational shift. Studies have shown, though, that disrupting the sleep-wake cycle in this way leads to serious problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also leads to drowsy driving.

Researchers from a Boston hospital coordinated a study to find out just how much of a public hazard drowsy driving is. Sixteen night shift workers were asked to participate in two driving sessions, both on closed driving tracks. The first session was conducted after participants took sufficient rest, the second after they had got off work.

Blind spots in the workplace

California residents who work at places like loading docks or giant fulfillment warehouses may be aware that there are blind spots in their work areas. They may also know that navigating the heavy equipment used to move around products can result in collisions when the equipment is used in the areas with insufficient visibility.

Despite the safety measures that are in place, there is still a likelihood of collisions because none of the protocols are failsafe. Vehicles like forklifts emit warning sounds when they are placed in reverse; however, even those loud sounds can be drowned out by noises that are common inside and outside of busy work areas. It is also not unusual for employees to get so used to the warning sounds while working in a noisy facility that they ignore them.

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