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Southern California Injury Law Blog

Study links mental health factors to women's work injury rates

In California, and around the country, statistics show that male workers are more prone to injuries than female. However, a new study suggests a strong link between women's work injury rates and the presence of mental health conditions like fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression, a link that does not generally exist among men.

The study was conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health's Center for Health, Work & Environment in conjunction with the state's largest workers' compensation insurer. Researchers analyzed the claims of more than 300 businesses, encompassing almost 17,000 employees in a wide range of industries.

The benefits of lane departure warning systems

Just 6 percent of the new vehicles on sale around the country come equipped with lane departure warning systems as standard equipment. Studies have found that such systems can prevent accidents and save lives in California, but researchers have also discovered that drivers often switch these potentially lifesaving devices off because they find the beeps they make irritating. While lane departure systems are available as an option on most new vehicles for sale in the United States, they are often packaged in with other options or only available on more expensive trim levels.

After studying the data gathered from around 5,000 accidents that took place in 2015, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that head-on collision rates were 11 percent lower and the rates of accidents that resulted in injuries were 21 percent lower among vehicles equipped with lane departure systems. These figures suggest that about 55,000 road users could have escaped injury that year if every vehicle was equipped with the technology.

Death of California tree worker results in fines

An investigation by Cal/OSHA after a worker died in a date palm orchard in Thermal concluded that the employer had not taken necessary steps to evaluate workplace hazards. Safety inspectors launched the inquiry after a bee swarm killed a 49-year-old man applying water to fruit. At least 30 bees stung him after he sprayed their nest, and anaphylactic shock ended his life.

His employer publicly expressed shock and grief at the loss of the man who had worked for the company for 27 years, but inspectors cited the company with four violations of workplace safety and health codes. Primary among the citations was the company's failure to provide training about insect threats and protective gear. The agency has imposed $41,310 in fines on the company.

Workplace injuries in California and what to do

In California, as with the rest of the country, there are certain types of occupations that pose a higher risk for injury than others. For example, construction workers face hazards ranging from heavy equipment to explosions. Restaurant workers may end up with cuts, burns or slip-and-fall injuries. Hospital workers can suffer from repetitive stress injuries and injuries to their backs and joints.

Whatever your industry, it is important for you to understand what to do if you suffer a workplace injury in California. What follows is a basic primer about California law regarding workers' compensation and some of the things you should consider if you become injured on the job.

The debate surrounding gas pumps

California employees who are required to work in enclosed spaces need safe air to breathe. In many cases, they will have access to a gas monitoring device to ensure they know exactly what the atmosphere is like in that location. Often, those monitors will have pumps attached to them. The pumps take air out of an enclosed space and transport it back to a remote location for analysis.

While this may keep a worker out of harm's way, it doesn't actually improve the monitor's ability to detect hazardous gases. Regardless of how it is used, it can only detect gas that it comes into direct contact with. Furthermore, the use of a pump may make the detection equipment heavier and use more electricity, which may reduce its run time.

Cal/OSHA enacts safety rules for hotel housekeepers

California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health has voted unanimously to approve new safety measures for hotel housekeepers. The new section is meant to keep workers safe from physical injuries and other dangers commonly found in the hospitality industry.

For example, hotel housekeepers often suffer from sprains and muscle strain as they repeatedly push heavy carts and vacuums and turn over mattresses, sometimes weighing over 100 lbs, on a daily basis. Cal/OSHA states that these injuries may require physical therapy and even lead to permanent disabilities. In 2012, to raise awareness of these issues, the hospitality union Unite Here petitioned Cal/OSHA to create a safety standard protecting these workers.

OSHA workplace safety inspectors numbers down

California is one of several states that has its own state-level Occupational Safety and Health Administration program. However, many workplaces throughout the country might be less likely to get a visit from OSHA inspectors due to a staffing shortage. Some of the areas hardest hit by the shortage are southeastern states such as Mississippi, Florida and Georgia.

Although the agency increased the number of its inspections for the first time in five years between October 2016 and September 2017, OSHA lost around 4 percent of its inspectors after the Trump administration came into office. As of Oct. 2, no one had been hired to replace them. However, a Labor Department spokesperson said that some new inspectors had been hired since October without specifying the amount.

"Walking Dead" faces maximum fine after workplace death

California fans of "The Walking Dead" may be interested to hear that the television show's production company was fined over $12,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for unsafe working conditions that OSHA ruled were the cause of a stuntman's death in July. The maximum fine allowable by law was imposed by the workplace safety regulatory agency after it issued a "serious citation" for allegedly failing to adequately protect the stuntman from falling hazards.

The production company behind "The Walking Dead," Stalwart Media, released a statement insisting that the company protects all employees from work-related injuries and was still "considering" how it would respond to the citation. OSHA requires cited companies to pay the fine within 15 days or appeal the decision and fine.

2017 saw increase in coal mining deaths

In 2016, there were eight deaths in the U.S. coal mining industry, which was a record low. In 2017, however, the number rose to 15 deaths, with eight in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Montana, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, and Wyoming. None were recorded in California. Eight of the deaths were connected to hauling vehicles, and two to machinery. Gas and dust explosions, which are frequent occurrences, did not contribute to the numbers in 2017.

The increase may be attributed to a turnaround in coal production, especially in the Appalachian region. West Virginia saw a 16 percent increase in coal production. At the same time, it has seen the most coal mining deaths in any state for six of the past eight years. Wyoming is the nation's top producer of coal and saw a 10.7 percent increase in coal production.

Strike-by accidents in the construction industry

You wear your safety harness when you work on scaffolding, and you always take precautions when using heavy equipment. However, these actions may not be enough to keep you from one of the top killers on construction sites.

According to a recent report in Safety and Health Magazine, struck-by accidents kill more workers in the construction industry than any other type of incident. What could strike and fatally injure you on a construction site?

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