Workers' compensation: How many claims will be smoke-related?

Over the past few years, October and November have been cruel when it comes to wildfires. Once again, employees rely on their employers to allow them to work indoors whenever possible and to provide respiration protection throughout the fire season. Most California employers realize that they can keep their workers' compensation premiums down by prioritizing workplace safety.

During a recent road trip through Sonoma County, reporters of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health noted that, despite the thick, smoky haze, a winery on their route was buzzing with tourists tasting wine. However, they were happy to see no workers in the vineyards in the area. When asked, a worker replied that they were aware of Cal/OSHA's emergency regulations.

A worker they encountered indoors wore a respirator, which he briefly removed while having the conversation, but said he needs protection even inside because the smoke was all over. The reporters came across two other workers on an ATV, but only one of them wore a respirator. Employers can provide the respirators, but wearing them all the time is up to the workers.

The California workers' compensation insurance system is a no-fault program that covers employees regardless of who caused their injuries. However, some employers are known to challenge the validity of the claims filed by their workers. This is where the skills of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can be an asset. A lawyer can work to protect the rights of the worker and pursue recovery of maximum benefits under applicable state laws.

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