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Cal/OSHA investigates workplace illness from carbon monoxide

Construction company owners' responsibilities related to employee safety do not stop with providing fall protection and hard hats. There are multiple hazards on construction sites that can cause physical injuries and other problems. Occupational illness or disease can follow exposure to dangerous gases or fumes.

The California Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently investigating the safety compliance of a Berkeley-based construction company. The agency launched the investigation after three workers landed in the hospital after exposure to carbon monoxide. Reportedly, the workers were within an enclosed glass area while working on a swimming pool installation. The carbon monoxide overwhelmed them when they used a gas-powered washer.

None of the victims' lives was at risk, but such accidents are preventable and must be avoided. The outcome could have been a lot more tragic. The prompt arrival of the fire department's rescue workers likely saved the lives of these workers. There are specific safety regulations to follow when working in confined spaces, and employers must ensure that workers are aware of the dangers and the protective measures.

Even though it seems these workers suffered no long-term damage or illness, they will be entitled to seek financial relief for the doctors' fees and hospital bills after this incident. They can file benefits claims with the California workers' compensation insurance system. In a severe case when the injury or illness prevents the employee from returning to work for some time, the insurance program will also include a portion of lost wages in the benefits -- typically based on the worker's average gross wage.

Source: NBC Bay Area, "Cal/OSHA Launches Investigation After Carbon Monoxide Exposure Sickens Three Workers at Berkeley Construction Site", Jan. 3, 2017

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