Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Workplace accidents: The threat of the silent killer

Carbon monoxide is an occupational hazard in many industries in California. Facilities at which forklifts or other equipment that is powered by liquid petroleum gas are used are most hazardous. Internal combustion engines of LPG-powered devices emit carbon monoxide, a toxic gas that could cause fatal workplace accidents.

The name of the silent killer follows the fact that CO is undetectable, and if a worker does not know the identifying symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, he or she could be dead within minutes. In high concentrations, carbon monoxide can prevent oxygenation of the blood cells and deprive the brain of essential oxygen. Even if CO poisoning is detected and treated, the health effects could be permanent.

Proper ventilation where forklifts are operated indoors is crucial, and the vehicles must be well maintained. Employers must ensure that workers are aware of the telltale danger signs. These include headaches, impaired vision, confusion, dizziness and nausea, along with reduced brain function and poor coordination. CO is even dangerous in low concentrations. Healthy workers can suffer fatigue, and those with existing heart problems could experience chest pains.

California families who lose loved ones in carbon monoxide-related workplace accidents might be entitled to workers' compensation death benefits. The benefits claims process could be complicated, and hiring an experienced attorney can simplify the process. Survivors' benefits typically cover the costs of a funeral and burial along with a financial package to make up for lost wages. This might help with day-to-day living expenses and other financial obligations, such as rental or mortgage payments.

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