The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has launched an investigation into an incident that caused the death of a farm worker. The safety agency reports that emergency workers were called to a fruit packing facility on a recent Tuesday evening. They arrived to find several workers who appeared to have been exposed to ammonia gas. This incident will likely lead to a workers’ compensation death benefits claim.
Reportedly, six employees in the area where ammonia gas escaped from a leak in the cooling system were affected. They complained of feeling sick, and emergency workers transported them to a hospital. Although five of them were release after medical treatment, one worker succumbed to the ammonia gas poisoning, and he died at the hospital.
The workers who were affected were employees of a farm labor contractor who placed them at the packing plant. In such situations, the labor contractor and the owner of the facility at which workers are placed share the responsibility for the safety and health of workers. The placement agency must provide basic safety training and ensure that workers are placed in safe work environments, and the business using that service must provide safety training to mitigate the unique hazards of the facility.
Surviving family members of contract workers who died in work-related accidents in California might have questions about their rights to death benefits through the state-regulated insurance program. They are free to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Legal counsel can explain their rights and assist with the legal and administrative steps to obtain benefits to cover a funeral and burial along with a wage-replacement package — regardless of the outcome of the Cal/OSHA investigation.