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Workers' compensation: Clean-up after wildfires will be hazardous

Workers who are involved in cleanup procedures after wildfires in California may not be aware of the risks they are facing. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health says many dangers exist even after fires are under control. Fire, gases, electricity and unstable structures are only some of the hazards to which workers are exposed. With so many potential causes of injury or illness, many workers will likely rely on the California workers' compensation insurance program to help them cope with doctors' bills in the aftermath of the cleanup process.

Re-energized power lines after outages and water near circuits can be deadly, as can carbon monoxide fumes emitting from generators, pumps and other diesel or gasoline powered equipment. Damaged pipes and tanks can leak flammable gases, and hazardous chemicals can leak from dislodged or damaged containers. Furthermore, inhalation of dust, soot and ash can damage the lungs of workers.

Additional hazards exist when fires have rendered structures unstable, and demolition procedures can cause collapse and exposure to falling materials. Breaking up or cutting debris can create dangerous flying objects that can cause hand, foot, head and eye injuries. Additional hazards include unguarded moving parts of machinery and electrocution. When workers enter confined spaces, they will face risks of asphyxiation and toxic exposure.

Some employers may not prioritize employee safety, leaving their workers vulnerable to scores of hazards if they are not equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment. Those who suffer occupational illnesses or injuries doing the cleaning up after the wildfires may find comfort in knowing that their medical expenses can be covered through the workers' compensation insurance program. An experienced California workers compensation attorney can navigate such claims on behalf of injured employees.

Source: cdrecycler.com, "Cal/OSHA issues notice for worker safety during wildfire cleanup," Oct. 30, 2017

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