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Contra Costa County and Tri-Valley Workers' Compensation Blog

Workers' compensation claims will follow wildfires

As massive wildfires threaten lives and properties across California, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reminded employers of the hazards posed by wildfire smoke. All workers in areas where smoke is present are at risk. Wildfire smoke contains tiny particles, gases and chemicals that can cause severe harm to the health of anyone who is exposed. Many workers' compensation claims typically follow the fire season every year.

The fine particles in the smoke pose the most severe threat because they are inhaled during normal breathing and then collect in the lungs where they reduce lung function. This can cause or exacerbate asthma, and worsen existing lung and heart conditions. The typical symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing and excessive coughing.

Falls from heights cause high workers' compensation claims

The National Safety Council says number two on the list of primary causes of work-related deaths is fall accidents from heights. Nationwide, including California, approximately 10,000 construction workers suffer fall-related injuries every year, bringing about some of the highest valued workers' compensation benefits claims. However, it is not only those working on scaffolding structures that are at risk because more than 50,000 struck-by-falling-object injuries are recorded each year, indicating that workers below elevated levels are also at high risk.

Safety authorities say that although unsafe structures and the lack of fall protection are factors in employee safety while working at heights, the lack of adequate supervision and human error also play a significant role. Furthermore, complacency does a lot to normalize and compound risks. It is not uncommon for workers who think they know what they are doing to be involved in fall-related workplace accidents.

Workers' compensation benefits will cover fall injury costs

Slips, trips and falls are chronic hazards in all industries in California, and despite all the focus on it in safety training and protective gear and devices, the number of incidents increases every year. This rise is also reflected in the number of workers' compensation benefits claims for lost work days. According to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, over 20,000 such injuries were reported in 2015.

Federal safety regulations require all walk and work surfaces that are elevated 4 feet or higher above another level to have edge protection. Cal/OSHA's regulations to prevent falls are significantly stricter, and the type of job, the trade and the height of the work area along with the dangers underneath all trigger the need to use fall protection. Instead of 4 feet, Cal/OSHA requires all elevated areas higher than 30 inches to be protected.

Some jobs come with a risk of knee injuries

Many professions have duties that include a lot of knee usage. From having to climb up ladders to heavy lifting, your knees can get a real workout during the day. This is especially true for manual laborers, including cable and carpet installers, linemen, factory workers and other similar laborers.

The risk of knee injuries usually doesn't stop these workers from doing their jobs. Instead, they may take steps to minimize the risk of injuries and seek medical care as soon as they realize something is amiss. Here are some important things to know about knee injuries:

Personal injury: Swimming pool safety legislation updated

With the California summer in full swing, parents must consider the safety of their children around swimming pools. Authorities say drownings of children between ages 1 and 4 years are the second leading cause of toddler deaths in the state, and even those who survive such incidents could suffer a personal injury such as irreversible brain damage that might cause permanent disabilities. Residential swimming pools are particularly dangerous because homeowners might think that just being around the house is sufficient supervision, while children should never be unaccompanied at any swimming pool.

California has always had strict regulations when it comes to the safety of residential swimming pools, but the safety act was updated, and it became effective on Jan. 1, 2018. Previous legislation allowed some municipalities to govern home pool safety, but the state now mandates all residential pool safety regulations. This does not apply to multifamily residence pools, public pools and hot tubs with required, lockable safety covers.

Workers' compensation benefits cover ergonomic injuries

Safety authorities say a significant percentage of workplace injuries suffered nationwide, including in California, are caused by overexertion. In fact, they say that this is the primary contributor of costs for workers' compensation. Thousands of people miss workdays due to overexertion every year.

Workers may not realize that many of their aches and pains are soft tissue, ergonomic injuries. Nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, spinal discs and cartilage damage are all ergonomic injuries. Workers in offices, on assembly lines and any other environment can be victims of these injuries. Causes include improper techniques for lifting, lowering and placing objects, excessive reaching and stretching, working in awkward body positions, repetitive motions, the need to use excessive force and more.

SSDI, LTD, workers' comp -- who qualifies for which benefits?

Many California workers think that debilitating injuries only happen to others. However, unanticipated injuries or illnesses can befall anyone, and understanding eligibility for the different types of benefits -- SSDI, LTD and workers' compensation -- could prevent panic if it happens. However, the intricacies can be confusing and seeking professional guidance makes good sense.

Millions of workers who contributed to Social Security during their employment years will be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits along with Medicare. An application may be made for disability benefits, but requirements are strict, and most SSDI applications are denied at first, though they might be obtained upon review or appeal. Only a small percentage of employees have Long-Term Disability Insurance as an employment benefit, and LTD is otherwise obtained through a private insurer. Workers' compensation, on the other hand, is limited to victims of workplace injuries, and benefits typically cover medical expenses and lost income.

How can passengers take precautions against personal injury?

Many young and inexperienced drivers will use California roads this summer. Multiple lives are lost in car accidents involving teen drivers every year, and in many cases, it is the passengers who are killed or severely injured. When this happens, the driver might be held responsible in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Although the control of the vehicle is in the hands of the driver, passengers can take precautions that might keep them safe. They could refuse to get into a car with an unlicensed driver, or one who is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Passengers must always wear their seat belts, and avoid sharing one with another passenger. They should refrain from distracting the driver, and make sure he or she does not use a cell phone while driving.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: A progressive injury

People who type a lot and those who use their hands in a repetitive motion are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a cumulative injury that can lead to limited mobility and trouble with being able to do the tasks at hand.

In some cases, workers who suffer this injury don't pay attention to the early signs. They might think that what they are experiencing is a normal part of the job. This isn't usually the case. A person who has carpal tunnel syndrome needs medical care to prevent the injury from becoming worse.

Personal injury and wrongful death claims may follow 5-car crash

Drivers and their passengers on the busy California roads will always be vulnerable. Encounters with impaired drivers are always a significant risk. Many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that are filed in civil courts result from auto accidents caused by impaired drivers.

A 21-year-old San Jose resident allegedly caused a five-vehicle crash that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries -- some critical -- on a recent Tuesday evening. According to the California Highway Patrol, the man drove recklessly and at a high rate of speed shortly before the crash. Officers arrested him for suspicion of being under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident.

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