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Southern California Injury Law Blog

Falls pose a threat to workplace safety

Slip-and-fall accidents can pose a serious risk to California workers on the job. This can be the case whether they work in a heavy physical job like construction or in a seemingly less risky office job. These kinds of accidents are common and may often be considered minor; however, when serious, they can be fatal or cause live-changing injuries. In 2014, 660 workers were killed after they fell from a height, while another 138 lost their lives in falls at the same level.

It can be easy to miss workplace safety risks that can cause slip-and-fall accidents, especially if they are new hazards on a familiar path. Workers may need to be particularly vigilant in order to avoid unexpected obstacles or spills that can send a person to the ground. In addition, avoiding other distractions can also help to prevent these kinds of workplace accidents. For example, avoiding emailing or texting on a mobile phone while walking, wearing non-slip shoes or walking more slowly can help workers to evade obstacles in their path. When spills occur, cleaning them up quickly can minimize the number of people at risk of a fall.

Silica memorandum issued by OSHA

Workers in California who routinely work in areas in which they may be exposed to respirable crystalline silica, an essential component in the manufacturing of glass, may be interested in a memorandum that was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor. The memorandum details the initial enforcement for the respirable crystalline silica standard, the majority of which will be effective on June 23, 2018.

OSHA reports that almost 2.3 million workers in the United States will be impacted by the rule. Many of the workers who will be affected have jobs in the manufacturing or construction industries.

Sanitation workers face many on-the-job hazards

California sanitation workers have a very hazardous job. In fact, statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that garbage collectors are nearly 10 times more likely to be fatally injured on the job than all other industries. Unfortunately, this was proven when 7 sanitation workers were killed during the first 10 days of 2018.

Garbage collectors are also prone to numerous non-fatal injuries, including sprains, strains and overexertion injuries. These types of injuries frequently occur when workers jump on and off garbage trucks and lift heavy loads. Another common danger is workers coming into contact with hazardous materials and waste.

Silica dust poses lung issues for contractors

In California, federal safety regulators want construction workers to know about the potential harm caused by breathing in silica dust. The dust can cause workers to contract a dangerous lung disease called silicosis that may result in death. Even so, the construction industry wants to find solutions to the issue without eliminating silica dust as a material used by contractors. As of March 2016, a new regulation is responsible for lowering the exposure to 20 percent instead of the former 100 percent. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is enforcing the regulation.

Enforcing the new regulation is difficult because general contractors frequently hire self-employed contractors to do the work. It is not always easy to ensure that the subcontractor is observing the guidelines. Since other violations also typically take place on construction sites, determining which regulations are violated is a difficult task. The regulation stipulates that employers must monitor the level of silica dust or observe the official process compiled in Table 1. Guidelines advise employers to vacuum the silica dust into bags or wet the dust so that it is stabilized in one location.

The catastrophic costs of traumatic brain injury

If you receive a traumatic brain injury as the result of a California car crash, slip and fall, or workplace accident, you face not only the possibility of serious and long-lasting physical and mental disability, but also the catastrophic medical and rehabilitation costs that accompany it. A TBI occurs when your brain becomes injured to such an extent that it becomes dysfunctional in some manner.

Any head injury you receive can result in a TBI. Falls are the leading cause, but you also can sustain a TBI as the result of one of the following:

  • A car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, boating or pedestrian accident 
  • A sports injury such as a concussion you receive during a football, basketball or baseball game
  • A blast injury you receive at work
  • An act of violence such as if you are shot during a robbery or other crime

Workers may benefit from startup's wearable safety bands

MākuSmart is a startup based in Des Moines that specializes in software platforms that can help keep workers safe. Employers and workplace safety managers in California, as in the rest of the U.S., may benefit in particular from the company's new wearable technology, which is a band worn by workers that records all environmental data in the workplace, automatically reports all near-misses and identifies unsafe trends and areas

This information is then stored in a cloud platform and made consumable. Thus, safety managers can analyze it without having to be data scientists themselves. MākuSmart is hopeful that managers become proactive in using the information provided to them and implement the right preventative measures for their work environment. This could include everything from the setting up of safety equipment to ongoing training.

Construction falls can have devastating results

Construction falls can be some of the most dangerous and costly workplace injuries suffered by California workers. Overall, the construction industry can be a common source of workers' compensation claims, and falls from elevated surfaces constitute a particularly prominent sector of those claims, amounting to 30 percent of all construction-related workplace injuries. The Nationwide insurance company notes that it has processed over 10,000 claims in the past five years related to construction accidents and is involved in providing safety training and awareness programs to help reduce the likelihood of falls at construction jobs.

Nationwide is partnering with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on a program called Stand-Down To Prevent Falls in Construction, which aims to draw attention to safety best practices that can reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries. Construction accidents are dangerous overall, but falls can cause some of the most serious and costly accidents to workers on the job. This is because falls from great heights cause employees to miss a lot of work, sustain greater damage to multiple parts of their body and have to rely on short- and long-term disability leave because of their catastrophic injuries.

Ways to keep workers safe during dangerous tasks

Individuals who perform hot work in California or elsewhere throughout the country could be putting themselves in danger. Hot work is an activity such as welding or burning that can cause a fire or explosion. To prevent injuries or deaths related to hot work, companies should consider avoiding it whenever possible. At the very least, a hazard analysis should be conducted to identify and remedy issues before work starts.

Workers should be given training related to performing hot work safely. Training should help them learn more about safety procedures and how to use equipment safely and calibrate combustible gas monitors. Knowing how to use and calibrate such a machine can make it easier to monitor the air wherever a worker is performing a task. Monitoring should occur even if there is little or no perceived risk of the air becoming flammable.

National COSH ranks 12 most hazardous workplaces

Workplace safety advocates in California will want to know about the 2018 "Dirty Dozen" report given by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. National COSH releases these reports annually to show what companies have the most unsafe work environments.

The more famous names on the list include Amazon, Lowe's and Tesla. Since 2013, seven workers have been killed in Amazon warehouses. Lowe's has contributed to the deaths of 56 people, including 17 workers exposed to paint strippers that contain methylene chloride; the corporation continues to sell products with this substance, which emits toxic fumes.

The dangers of working on or near scaffolding

If you are one of the many people across California who earn a living working on a construction site, you may understand just how dangerous your job as a construction worker can prove to be. While you face numerous work-related risks every day due to the nature of your job, some of the most notable include risks associated with working on or near scaffolding.

Scaffolds, or temporary elevated platforms that allow you to work at heights, are notoriously dangerous, but also quite common on construction sites, with about 65 percent of today’s construction workforce regularly using scaffolds to perform job duties. Every time you work on or near scaffolding, however, you face specific injury risks that include the following:

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