Cal/OSHA penalties are separate from workers' compensation

Last October, a 49-year-old worker in a Napa vineyard lost his life in an on-the-job accident. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigated the incident, and in April, the agency proposed penalties totaling almost $38,000 for safety violations. However, the Cal/OSHA Bureau of Investigations has reportedly taken over the inquiry after the vineyard owners file an appeal against the proposed penalties. This does not have an impact on any workers' compensation claim that the surviving family members of the deceased worker might have filed.

Reportedly, the Cal/OSHA report indicates that five citations were issued, two of which were classified as serious accident-related, one serious and two general safety violations. Investigators determined that the worker was pulled into a grape harvester when his sweatshirt was caught by moving machine parts and became wrapped around an unguarded shaft. This was one of many preventable accidents that happen on vineyards each year.

The citations were for the employer's failure to establish an effective inspection schedule and to enforce safety rules. Furthermore, workers did not receive adequate heat illness-related safety training, and moving machine parts were not safeguarded to prevent workers from making contact or clothes being snagged. The employers also failed to ensure that equipment and machinery were maintained and safe to operate.

When a loved one's life is lost in a work-related accident in California, the surviving family members will likely be eligible for financial relief through the state-regulated workers' compensation system. Cal/OSHA investigations, citations and appeals cannot affect the family's eligibility for survivor's benefits. Legal counsel can explain their rights and assist with the claims process in pursuit of benefits to cover end-of-life expenses and lost wages.

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