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Southern California Injury Law Blog

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.

Ensuring the safety of older workers in California

Safety training is important in any industry that involves physical labor, especially when the workforce spans three or sometimes four generations. The presence of older workers reflects the fact that more and more people are deferring retirement past the traditional 60-to-65 age range.

Employees must consider several factors before trying to create effective safety training. The elderly tend to be less familiar with technological advances. However, it has been shown that older adults embrace new technology once they get a handle on it. For example, a 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that among older adults who use the internet, 71 percent go online every day.

Fall protection tops OSHA violations list

Employers in California and around the country are more likely to be cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for fall protection violations than any other workplace safety issue according to a report from the National Safety Council. The nonprofit advocacy group brings attention to safety matters in the United States and focuses much of its efforts on workplace accident prevention. The completed report is scheduled to be released in December, but experts do not expect the final draft to differ substantially from the preliminary version that was issued in September.

Fall protection is taken seriously by OSHA because falls remain a leading cause of workplace deaths. Data from the federal safety agency reveals that 350 of the 937 construction site deaths in 2015 were caused by falls, and four of OSHA's most commonly cited violations are specific to the agency's construction sector regulations. Construction companies are commonly cited for failing to provide adequate fall protection, not installing proper guardrails or scaffolding, using ladders improperly and failing to provide their workers with adequate fall protection training.

How dangerous is outdoor work?

There is a dark side to working in the landscaping industry: people get hurt. And they get hurt, often very seriously, in a variety of ways.

It is estimated that about 200 landscape workers die annually from work-related accidents. In a pool of 100,000 workers, 25 are likely to die on the job.

Lack of safety oversight blamed for worker's death

A summary of a single fatal workplace accident provides insights into how a lax attitude toward safety could endanger California workers. The incident involved a 33-year-old male warehouse employee riding a pallet lifted by a forklift to access inventory on high steel shelves. According to the report prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees at the warehouse routinely put one or both feet on a raised pallet to store or retrieve inventory. When the victim slipped and fell off the pallet, his injuries resulted in his death a few days later.

The evaluation of his death blamed the employer for failing to provide a safe and appropriate method for storing inventory. The employer had not properly trained or certified the forklift operators, and no supervisor had insisted that the pallets and forklifts be used in accordance with manufacturers' directions.

Employee rights after a natural disaster

After a natural disaster, California employers have an obligation to keep their employees safe. If employees are asked to prepare for or clean up after a disaster, employers must keep them safe from anticipated hazards. Ideally, only those who are trained to handle disaster cleanup should be allowed to participate in such an activity. This is because those who aren't properly trained may not understand how to assess the dangers that they may face.

Those who are not trained properly may also not understand how to secure the site or take other safety precautions. If an employer doesn't have employees who are properly trained to clean up a disaster site, it may be possible to outsource the task to another company. To make it easier to account for worker safety, employers should have an emergency response plan ahead of time.

Keeping California warehouse workers safe

Falls both from heights and from the same level are among the leading causes of workplace deaths and serious injuries. According to OSHA, 20 percent of deaths and injuries resulting in lost work days occur because of falls. This translates to 345 deaths and 202,066 injuries to workers throughout the country. Warehouse and distribution center employers can take a variety of steps to keep their workers safe from falls.

One idea may be to introduce elevated platform solutions to a facility. Industrial mezzanines must have a guardrail and gates, but the gates may need to be opened from time to time. To reduce the odds of a fall when the gates are open, dual reciprocating barriers may be ideal. They have both an inner gate and an outer gate that cannot be opened at the same time. Both manual and automatic barriers are relatively easy for workers to use.

Steps and concerns for performing hot work safely

The Chemical Safety Board and the National Fire Protection Association recommend that California employees and employers alike look for alternatives and ask whether the job is necessary before beginning any work that produces heat, sparks or flames. Collectively, this category of work is referred to as hot work. It includes jobs like brazing, soldering, cutting and grinding, welding and pipe thawing. Even drilling is categorized as hot work because it can generate heat from friction.

The potential of fire breaking out is among the most serious risks associated with hot work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration based part of its welding, cutting and brazing requirements on the NFPA's fire prevention standard. The NFPA 51B standard lists performing tasks in designated areas as the next step for performing hot work safely. A designated area is defined as a specified location that is fire safe and approved and designed for hot work tasks. Designated areas should be essentially free of flammables and combustibles, and they should be constructed of fire-resistant or noncombustible materials.

Construction industry has higher risk of struck-by accidents

People in California who are employed in the construction industry face many risks while they are on the job. The construction industry has one of the highest rates of work-related accidents and injuries, making it important for workers to be aware of the dangers and for employers to implement preventative safety measures.

Recently, the Center for Construction Research and Training released a report about the prevalence of struck-by accidents in the construction industry as compared to other industries. The construction industry had the most struck-by deaths of all industries, demonstrating the importance of following the safety regulations as outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Safety tips for composting operators

California workers who are involved in composting operations have guidelines for safety from the Solid Waste Association of North America. The series of publications called 'Five to Stay Alive" from SWANA has been updated to its fifth installment, which focuses on safety for composting workers.

The five safety tips for composting workers are available at the SWANA web site and as posters and flyers. SWANA's CEO says that this is the right time for a composting work safety campaign because governments are looking into waste diversion programs, and composting is a leading method of waste management.

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