Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Heat-related workplace injuries and illness can be fatal

Every summer, thousands of California workers risk their lives working outdoors in extreme heat. Although work doesn't stop when conditions become hazardous, the risks can be mitigated. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health goes to great lengths each year to urge employers to prioritize the safety of employees who are at risk of suffering heat-related workplace injuries or illnesses.

Sadly, not all employers take the necessary care to protect workers. Cal/OSHA is currently investigating the death of a farmworker in Kern County. Reportedly, the incident happened on July 31. Authorities say a landscaping company employed the 56-year-old man. He was involved in the installation of an irrigation system in an almond orchard in Arvin on the day that he died.

Cal/OSHA reports that the worker became ill and suffered heat exhaustion, which caused him to collapse at approximately 1:30 p.m. Although he was rushed to a local hospital, did not survive. Cal/OSHA investigators will determine whether the employer allowed the worker to take frequent breaks in a shaded area, with enough water to keep him hydrated.

Such an investigation might determine that safety violations played a role in the workplace injuries that caused this worker's death. However, his surviving family members need not wait for the outcome of the investigation before pursuing financial relief through the California workers' compensation insurance system. The unanticipated costs of the end-of-life arrangements after such an untimely death can be significant and are typically covered by the survivor's benefits. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist the family to obtain those benefits along with a financial package to make up for lost wages.

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