Contra Costa County and Tri-Valley Workers' Compensation Blog

Retail workers face several risks while doing their job duties

Retail workers are the face of the business. They interact with the customers and handle the merchandise. While this might seem like a safe industry, there are some serious risks. Employers need to take steps to ensure that their employees have a safe working environment. Employees should have the tools and protocol that helps them to remain injury free.

Knowing the risks of the retail industry is a good place to start. There are several that are common and should be the primary focus of a safety plan.

  • Control fire risks. Never place anything near sprinkler heads or fire alarms. Keep doorways unblocked. Don't use anything that has a frayed cord or wires that are loose. Have working fire extinguishers that are easy to access.
  • Keep shelves neat and tidy. Don't overload upper shelves and place heavy objects on the bottom ones. Throw packaging materials away promptly.
  • Practice proper ladder safety. Always use a ladder with the correct weight load rating. Only have one person on the ladder at a time. Don't place it in front of an unlocked door or in in the middle of a walkway unless someone is alerting people that you are working.
  • Clean the floors. Slips and trips are major problems that can be avoided if the floors are kept clean. Loose items, trash, stray merchandise and anything else must be kept off the floor. Any spilled liquids should be cleaned promptly, and warning signs should be placed near the spill until it is fully dry.
  • Use equipment and tools safely. Box cutters, for example, pose a laceration risk if employees try to rush through opening boxes to set out merchandise. Never use a blade by pulling it toward you. Always use fresh, sharp cutting instruments. Use tools in their intended manner. Ask for instructions if you aren't sure how to use them.
  • Minimize the chance of musculoskeletal injuries. Stretching before a shift and resting periodically during the shift can help. Try not to use repetitive motions while doing your job. Use proper lifting techniques. Ask for help if you have large, heavy or bulky items to pick up.
  • Always have adequate lighting. The risk of injury is greater when there isn't good lighting since it is more likely to have an accident when you can't see where you are going very well. Even outdoor areas, such as trash dumpster locations and parking lots should have good lighting.

Does workers' compensation cover chemical exposure injuries?

Workers on almost all California job sites are exposed to hazardous chemicals. Whether they manufacture chemicals or use it for cleaning, exposure can cause bodily harm. For this reason, employers must ensure that workers are aware of the hazards posed by the chemicals with which they work and practice safe storage and labeling protocols. A significant number of workers' compensation claims result from harm caused by toxic chemicals.

Chemicals have four routes of entry into the bodies of workers, the most common of which is inhalation. Once toxic fumes are inhaled, it can form a respiratory tract deposit, causing anything from minor irritation to severe destruction of tissues. Ingesting chemicals that accidentally get into a worker's mouth is another possibility, which can damage the gastrointestinal tract if it is corrosive. However, if it enters the bloodstream via the digestive tract, organ damage is likely.

Personal injury: Dog severs child's hand. Is owner liable?

California has strict liability laws when it comes to dog bites. It makes dog owners responsible for any dog bites to lawful visitors to the property where the dog is held, or in a public place. Anyone who is bitten by a dog under such circumstances can file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner. The victim is not required to prove the owner knew that the dog could be dangerous.

Each dog bite claim is made up of unique circumstances. In another state recently, a young child lost his hand due to a dog attack. Reportedly, the 4-year-old boy played in the backyard, adjacent to a neighbor's yard that contained two husky breed dogs behind a solid, six-foot tall vinyl fence.

Workers' compensation claim might follow fatal forklift accident

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health recently launched an investigation into a fatal workplace accident that claimed the life of a construction worker. This was one of the many fatalities that often lead to workers' compensation survivor's benefits claims that follow forklift accidents. The dangers posed by lift trucks do not always receive the necessary attention during safety training.

According to an incident report, emergency services were called to a construction site shortly before 10 a.m. on a recent Wednesday. When first responders arrived at the construction site of a planned apartment building, they found a 19-year-old man unresponsive on the ground. They learned that a forklift had backed over the victim.

Workers' compensation benefits can help surviving family members

A spokesperson for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reported the outcome of an investigation that followed the death of a worker in the twin tunnel rail project last August. The worker suffered a fatal blow when a steel beam struck him in the head, and two contractors were fined and cited for safety violations. The spokesperson says several other tunnel-related injuries often lead to workers' compensation claims.

He says the hazards in this type of construction work include airborne contaminants that workers inhale, falling objects and cave-ins, among other potential risks. The two contractors that were found in violation of safety standards were involved in replacing rails, infrastructure refurbishment and signal system upgrades. Then, on Aug. 10, 2018, while using heavy equipment on the job, a worker lost his life.

What is the supplemental job displacement benefits program?

There are many factors that workers who are injured on the job have to consider if they are trying to obtain benefits from workers' compensation. While you might think of this program as one that pays medical bills and provides temporary disability, there are other facets of the program that can benefit injured workers.

One of the program's offering that might help some individuals is the supplemental job displacement benefits (SJDB). This program is meant to help workers train for a new career if they are unable to go back to their original positions. It comes with some specific requirements and guidelines.

Workers' compensation: Cal/OSHA finalizes trench collapse inquiry

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health recently reported its findings after investigating a workplace accident in Daly City that claimed the life of a construction worker last July. The surviving family members of the deceased worker might have already filed a claim for workers' compensation death benefits. The state-regulated insurance program is a no-fault system, so eligibility for benefits does not depend on the outcome of the investigation.

The report indicates that the construction company failed to protect its employees from cave-in hazards. Investigators determined that a crew of construction workers were in a trench of which only the two ends were sloped due to concern over the stability of a nearby utility pole. No steps were taken to secure the sidewalls of the 14-foot deep trench.

Workers' compensation claims show some common hazards exist

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires employers in all sectors to protect their employees from known risks. While each workplace has its unique safety issues, some common hazards exist, regardless of the industry. Safety authorities say a significant percentage of workers' compensation claims result from accidental falls or workers who are struck by falling objects. Proper personal protective equipment like fall harnesses can prevent falls, and hard hats can prevent head injuries.

Fire hazards exist in all workplaces, and frequent fire drills can ensure that all workers are familiar with the locations of fire exits and extinguishers. Electrical dangers do not threaten only engineers and electricians, but also those who operate power tools. Even office workers can suffer electrical shocks if extension cords are used irresponsibly or if power points are overloaded.

Workers' compensation covers stress, fatigue in police officers

Police officers in California risk their lives every day to keep others safe. Their jobs are demanding, and along with the injury risks they face, a host of illnesses and diseases can be linked to the circumstances under which they work. This is recognized by the state-regulated workers' compensation system, which presumes that certain conditions that are typical in police officers are work-related.

Safety authorities say of all the hazards police officers face, stress and shift work are the two aspects that cause long-term health problems. These workers typically work shifts -- either permanently or on rotation. The body has a natural rhythm that requires sleep at night and being awake during the daytime, and forcing the opposite could cause fatigue. Their jobs require alertness and the ability to make split-second decisions, both of which are compromised by fatigue.

Will workers' compensation cover injuries caused by robotics?

The rapid advances in technology have forced many employees in various California industries to become used to having robotic co-workers share their workspaces. Along with new technology typically comes new safety risks, and many workers' compensation claims have been filed after workers were injured by robots. While safety projects focus mainly on developing safer interactions between humans and robots, Amazon recently reported that it created a personal protective device to the robots in its facilities from causing injuries to the human workers.

Amazon has been the subject of multiple investigations by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health after employees suffered work-related injuries, some of which involved robots. To mitigate such risks, Amazon Robotics has developed a wearable device that reminds one of a belt with suspenders, called the Robotic Tech Vest. The device will warn robotic systems of the presence of humans.

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