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California Board of Legal Specialization | Certified Specialist in Workers' Compensation Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization
Law Offices of Vincent J. Scotto, III, Attorneys & Lawyers Employment & Workers Compensation, San Mateo, CA

San Mateo Workplace Injury Law Blog

What is an occupational illness?

Any California resident who has suffered from a bout of the common cold may be able to generally describe what an illness is. Most may claim that an illness is a condition that affects a person's body due to the invasion of a bacterial or viral element into them. Different illnesses may cause individuals to suffer different symptoms, but in most cases the illnesses that individuals pick up in their daily lives resolve themselves without significant medical intervention.

An occupational illness has commonalities with and differences from regular illnesses. Whereas an occupational illness is also caused by a person's interaction of a foreign substance or chemical, what makes it unique from other illnesses is that the exposure occurred at the individual's place of work. Encounters with chemical, biological and substances can cause individuals to suffer illnesses and harm.

An employee has rights when it comes to OSHA regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, is a governmental regulatory body that maintains standards for the safety measures that employers provide to their workers. Through OSHA a California worker has rights and a mechanism for pursuing help when they suffer a preventable workplace injury or accident.

For example, when a worker is hired into a particular job they have the right to be trained. While often training is considered the imparting of knowledge upon a person so that they can perform a task, under OSHA a worker's training must also impart safety education so that the worker can do their tasks without causing themselves or others injury.

When employers evade liability, get an experienced lawyer

Everyone has an expectation of being safe in their workplace, regardless of where they are working. This means whether they are in the office space owned by a multinational company or on the road as part of a construction crew, employers are responsible for ensuring their employees are in a safe working environment.

Unfortunately, not all employers take this responsibility seriously. This means they either do not remove hazards from the workplace or they do not train and equip their employees to deal with workplace hazards. Either way, workers get injured in workplace and have no legal recourse as they have contracted away their right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. Workers' compensation insurance is therefore their only option-insurance provided by the employer regardless of fault in the workplace accident that led to the injuries.

Construction site accidents increasing

While driving down California roads in the summer, motorists may commonly come across signs that ask for drivers to slow down their driving speed as they are entering a work zone. Unfortunately, when they don't adhere to those signs, work zone crashes take place and people end up injured, or even worse, dead.

Work zone crashes have increased in the past couple of years, with 2015 seeing a 7.8 percent increase in crashes from the previous year. There were an estimated 96,626 crashes, representing a crash every 5.4 minutes. At least one injury came out of every 70 crashes a day, and every week, 12 crashes resulted in at least one fatality. Data demonstrates that there is a higher rate of fatalities in work-zone crashes than in non-work zone crashes.

How does a decrease in workers' comp inpatient stays affect you?

Many workers who find themselves injured in a workplace accident often end up going to the hospital to get treatment for their injuries. And, this often requires an extended hospital stay. A hospital stay means medical bills and when one is taking time off from work, more bills is the last thing needed. This is where workers' compensation plays an important role, as it ensures workers are compensated for the injuries they have suffered and the treatment they receive.

California workers' compensation inpatient stays fell 31.2 percent between 2008 and 2016, according to the California Workers' Compensation Institute. When compared to other payer systems, workers' comp outpaced programs, such as MediCare and MediCal. In fact, these last two programs saw increases in hospital stays, whereas private plan inpatient stays also fell almost 20 percent.

Spinal cord injuries can result from falls

As mentioned previously on this blog, construction site falls are among the most common type of workplace accidents. This means a common workplace injury is a spinal cord injury as falls account for more than 15 percent of all spinal cord injuries.

California residents may be aware that spinal cord injuries are often caused by a traumatic, sudden blow to the spine that fractures, compresses, dislocates or crushes one or more of a person's vertebrae. However, non-traumatic injuries can be caused by inflammation or infections.

Do workers have any rights in the workplace?

When employers in California are tasked with creating a safe workplace for their employees, this not only includes detecting and removing possible workplace hazards, but also informing employees of them through trainings, labels, alarms and other methods. They should also keep an accurate record of work-related injuries and illnesses, and provide them to workers when needed. However, this is not the end of the matter. Employers have obligations, and employees have certain rights that they can exercise.

When it comes to training, workers have the right to be trained in a language that they understand. Otherwise, the training is not effective. They have the right to work on machines that are safe, and they should be provided with the requisite safety gear for free. This includes gloves, harnesses and lifelines for falls. They should also be kept safe from toxic chemicals. This includes through protective equipment and substantial changes in the workplace, such as providing proper ventilation to enclosing processes to trap harmful chemicals. Workers can get copies of test results that were conducted to find hazards in the workplace. This is included in worker's right to information.

Common construction site injuries

The construction industry is an integral part of the economy, but it is also the cause of millions of injuries annually. According to the CDC, construction workers experienced 9 percent of the 3.3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported in 2009. Twenty-two percent of the injuries could be attributed to falls, but given the nature of the industry, there are a number of causes for construction site accidents.

California readers familiar with this San Mateo Workplace Injury Law Blog may have read the recent blog posts on construction workers getting injured in fall accidents may not be surprised to hear that falls are the most common types of workplace accidents at construction sites. Usually, this involves a fall from some height, from a scaffolding, ladder, roof or crane. Similarly, they are also at risk of getting injured by falling objects.

Worker severely injured on project that injured two previously

Readers of the San Mateo Injury Law Blog may have come across a post late last year, outlining the injuries sustained in a work accident on the California high-speed rail construction site. Two workers were hospitalized and a number of others were injured.

Unfortunately, another worker has gotten crushed at the site in another location recently. According to reports, a 48-year-old man was partially crushed by falling steel. Workers were using a crane to lift materials when the rigging failed. The rebar pinned the accident victim down and broke all his ribs, collarbone, arm and fractured his vertebrae, as well as other bones. His nephew claims the victim may now be a paraplegic as a result.

Don't deal with your workplace injuries alone

An accident can take place in any work setting-it is not necessary that construction sites be the only place where workplace accidents take place. What is necessary that an employer creates a safe working environment for employees and if they are unable to do so, informs the employee of the inherent dangers and how to avoid or minimize them. When their failure to do results in a safety violation that causes a workplace injury, it is an injured worker's right to pursue a workers' compensation claim.

Injured employees may hesitate from filing a claim, either because they feel loyal to their employee or they are afraid of retaliation. However, if not filed timely, the claim may be time-barred. This is also why it may come as a surprise to employees that their employer contests their claim, asserting it was a result of completing a task related to their employment or that the type of medical treatment sought was not necessary.

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The Law Offices of Vincent J. Scotto, III
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