Workers Comp for Outdoor Workers with Smoke Inhalation
California wildfires tend to occur in the spring, and then again in the fall when foliage begins to drop. As the heat of the summer bakes the plants that sprang up after our rainy winter and spring, California is bracing for another series of wildfires like those we have experienced in the past few years. And when wildfires break out, the air becomes saturated with particulates that make it unhealthy to breathe. When an employee’s job requires him or her to work out of doors, poor air quality can become a real health risk.
Employers Must Protect Workers from Poor Air Quality
In response, on July 18th, Cal/OSHA enacted an emergency regulation that will aid California outdoor workers who are exposed to wildfire smoke when the inevitable happens. This regulation will require employers to take steps to protect their employees when air quality reaches dangerous levels due to wildfire smoke.
The emergency regulation specifically applies when the Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne particulate matter (PM 2.5) is 151 or greater, and when conditions exist that would lead an employer to reasonably anticipate that their employees will be exposed to wildfire smoke.
Regulations Require Protection Against Smoke Inhalation
Employers are now required to monitor air quality at their worksites. If possible, measures must be taken to reduce harmful exposure; however, if not possible, employers must provide respirators for employees to use.
Under the new emergency regulations, employers are required to:
- Monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) present where their employees are located.
- Take whatever steps are necessary to reduce an employee’s exposure to smoke when the AQI for PM 2.5 reaches 150 or higher. Some steps may be to relocate the employees to an enclosed building that has filtered air.
- Provide respirators rated N95 or above for employees if it is impossible to provide a workspace where the particulates are at an acceptable level.
- Arrange for employees to receive information about the new regulation, how wildfire smoke can affect their health, and about the location, safe use and maintenance of respirators.
If your job requires you to work in an area where wildfire smoke is an issue, your employer must take these appropriate steps to ensure your safety. If your employer fails to do so, you may file a complaint with Cal/OSHA.
Making the New Workers’ Comp Law Permanent
Cal/OSHA appointed an advisory committee to meet on August 27 to replace the emergency regulation with a permanent one, seeking to permanently protect employees from exposure to unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke. The meeting will take place in Oakland. At this advisory meeting, shareholders and the public will be able to provide input on information and scientific data regarding exposure to wildfire smoke, control measures, feasibility, and the cost involved to implement the procedures.
Workers Comp for Smoke Inhalation
Smoke inhalation can have a devastating effect on the lungs, resulting in both chronic and long-term respiratory illness and injuries. Particulates within the smoke can be inhaled deep into the lungs, and the carbon elements cause severe damage to the cilia and alveolar surfaces. And that’s not all. When wood burns, aldehydes and acrolein can be released. These are also highly toxic, causing protein destruction deep within the lung tissues.
Smoke inhalation may also cause or aggravate a condition called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). COPD refers to any lung disease that blocks the airflow, affecting a person’s ability to breathe. Two of the more common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, either of which can be caused by or aggravated by inhaling smoke.
While advances are constantly being made in the treatment of COPD, there is currently no cure, which means that a patient will undergo treatment for the rest of his or her life. Many times the patient is not able to work as a result of COPD, and eventually becomes eligible for workers comp permanent disability benefits.
Workers Comp Attorneys for Smoke Inhalation
If you were injured at work because of inhaling smoke, you are entitled to workers comp benefits, no matter how the smoke was generated or what type of work you do. Proving your case, however, may be difficult. Many workers comp insurance carriers initially deny smoke inhalation claims, claiming that the lung condition was actually caused by factors outside of the workplace (such as smoking, exposure to toxins away from the work environment, heredity, etc.).
That’s why it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced, aggressive workers comp attorney like Cantrell Green. Our experienced Long Beach attorneys will help you compile and submit all of the medical documentation necessary to be sure you receive all of the benefits to which you are entitled. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment to discuss your case, your options, and how to proceed. Our first consultation is always free.
Your consultation with our workers’ comp attorneys is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our attorneys will help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ comp benefits for which you qualify. Our attorneys speak both Spanish and English.