What you need to know about Valley Fever in Kern County

August 21, 2019 | 6:00 am


Last year, California experienced 2,200 new cases of Valley Fever, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. In fact, Kern County residents were affected the most with 890 cases. In all, about 30 percent of all Valley Fever cases nationwide occur in the Central Valley each year.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials are warning people about Valley Fever, not only for Valley Fever Awareness Month, but year-round. Breathing the Central Valley’s dusty air can put you at risk for this potentially fatal disease. Here’s what you need to know about Valley Fever, whose most at risk, what you can do to prevent the spread, and what to do if you or your loved ones are affected.

 

WHAT IS VALLEY FEVER?

Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is caused by a fungal spore that is found in soils in the southwest United States, and in some areas of Central and South America. People get infected by breathing in spores contained in dust that gets into the air when it’s windy or when the soil is disturbed during activities such as digging, gardening and construction.

In many cases, Valley fever does not make people ill, but some get flu-like symptoms that can last a month or more. Most who have flu symptoms recover fully, but others can develop severe disease, including pneumonia and infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin and other organs. Anyone who thinks they might have Valley Fever should see a doctor. A blood test can determine the disease, and doctors should be suspicious of Valley Fever in patients who live in the valley or have traveled through the area who have a cough that doesn’t go away after more than several weeks.

Valley fever does not spread from person to person, and many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, night sweats, muscle aches or joint pain, and rashes on the upper body or legs. Serious illness can occur, resulting in hospitalization, long-term disability, or even death.

Healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medication for some people to try to reduce symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital.

 

KERN COUNTY AT RISK

Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives in the environment can get Valley Fever, and it can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults age 60 and older. Additionally, certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley Fever, such as people who have weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, people who have diabetes, and people who are black or Filipino.

The best way to reduce the risk of Valley fever is to avoid breathing dust by:

  • Minimize soil disturbance.
  • Stay indoors on dusty days.
  • Roll up windows in cars and use recirculating air conditioning when driving through dusty areas.
  • If outdoors in dusty areas, consider wearing a N95 mask or respirator.

In areas where Valley Fever is common, like Kern County, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus because it is in the environment. And there is no vaccine to prevent infection. That’s why knowing about Valley Fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment. People who have Valley Fever symptoms and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley Fever. Healthcare providers should be aware that Valley Fever symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses and should consider testing in patients with flu-like symptoms who live in or have traveled to an area where Coccidioides lives.

 

WORK SAFETY

Employers in affected areas can take steps to protect workers from breathing in the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever. These include controlling dust, providing worker training, and suspending outdoor work during heavy winds.

It’s important for employers of outdoor workers to post resources for preventing work-related Valley Fever. Each year, more than 1,000 Californians receive hospital treatment for Valley Fever, and about eight of every 100 people hospitalized die from the infection annually.

Workers who dig or otherwise disturb soil containing the fungus are at risk for getting the illness. The fungus lives in the soil in parts of California, particularly the Central Valley. When people inhale the fungal spores released when the soil is disturbed, they may get Valley Fever.

Some workers at higher risk for Valley Fever include wildland firefighters, construction workers, archaeologists, military personnel, and workers in mining, gas, and oil extraction jobs.

Here are some steps employers and employees can take to prevent the spread of Valley Fever:

  • Determine if your worksite is in an endemic area.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that reduce workers’ exposure, which may include minimizing the area of soil disturbed; using water, appropriate soil stabilizers, and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust; stabilizing all spoils piles by tarping or other methods; providing air conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and make sure workers keep windows and vents closed; suspending work during heavy winds; placing any onsite sleeping quarters, if provided, away from sources of dust.
  • Employers must develop and implement a respiratory protection program in accordance with Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Take measures to reduce transporting spores offsite, such as cleaning tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite; providing coveralls and change rooms, and showers where possible if workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust.
  • Train workers and supervisors about the risk of Valley Fever, the work activities that may increase the risk, and the measures used onsite to reduce exposure. Also train on how to recognize Valley Fever symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to report Valley Fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor.

 

HELP AVAILABLE

Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical aims is to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers, and provide the patient care and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations. Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

The Valley Fever Americas Foundation aims to promote awareness and raise funds to support promising academic and medical research on the fungus which causes Valley Fever, in efforts to produce a vaccine or a cure. There is currently no cure for the disease.

“Understanding the conditions in which Valley Fever is most likely to be contracted can prevent further suffering and loss throughout our community, and being familiar with its symptoms empowers victims of this disease to be diagnosed early and increase their chances of making a full recovery,” according to the foundation.

More resources on Valley Fever can be found at the Valley Fever Institute and Valley Fever Americas Foundation.

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MORE INFORMATION

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or becomes ill due to work condition, please contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Keeping safe at work in Kern County’s summer sun and adverse air quality

June 19, 2019 | 10:23 am


The month of June is National Safety Month, and in Bakersfield, we know June as the start of triple digit weather forecasts and stocking up on sunscreen.

For those working outdoors in Kern County, June and the summer months are also a time protection from the California sun, and adverse air quality. In fact, more injuries occur during the summer months in workplaces than at other times of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The industry sector experiencing the largest number of preventable fatal injuries is construction, followed by transportation and warehousing. Agriculture, forestry, transportation and warehousing sectors experience the highest fatality rates per 100,000 workers, according to the bureau. Taking preventative action can spare workers needless pain and suffering. For example, high temperatures can be dangerous to people at work and can lead to injuries, illnesses, and even death, the majority of which are preventable.

Read ahead to learn more about common threats to workers in the summer months, and how to prevent injuries.

 

Working in the heat

Every year, many workers become sick from occupational heat exposure, and some are fatally injured. These illnesses and fatalities are preventable.

Many people are exposed to heat on the job, in both indoor and outdoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

Indoor workplaces with hot conditions may include iron and steel foundries, brick-firing and ceramic plants, glass products facilities, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, commercial kitchens, laundries, chemical plants, material handling and distribution warehouses, and many other environments. Outdoor workplaces with work in hot weather and direct sun, such as farm work, construction, oil and gas well operations, landscaping, emergency response operations, and hazardous waste site activities, also increase the risk of heat-related illness in exposed workers.

When a person works in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature through sweating. When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. If the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. If the person is not cooled down, fainting and even death could result.

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention. Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and burns from hot surfaces or steam.

Workers exposed to hot indoor environments or hot and humid conditions outdoors are at risk of heat-related illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, or if they have certain health conditions.

Heat-related illnesses can be prevented. Important ways to reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illness include air conditioning and ventilation and work practices such as work-rest cycles, and staying hydrated. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do because acting quickly can save lives.

 

Air Quality & Valley Fever

Although not all workers who deal with the summer heat work outdoors, those who work outdoors are susceptible to many factors contributed to by bad air quality.  The workers in the fields have to be especially mindful of the side effects of the air they are breathing, but anyone outside could get unlucky.

Some illness or infections from breathing in bacteria and pollution are:

  • allergies
  • asthma
  • valley fever
  • respiratory disease

Valley Fever and respiratory diseases have taken many lives in Kern County.  Those at a greater risk of getting valley fever and respiratory disease are workers in the fields. At any given month, workers have to contend with dust storms and breathing in soil ridden amounts of air.

What is valley fever? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, valley fever — scientifically called coccidioidomycosis — is a fungal infection in the lungs from breathing in spores in the air.  The spores are microscopic fungi found in soil and it cannot be passed from person to person. The initial state of coccidioidomycosis can cause these symptoms that make it hard to diagnose:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Rash on upper body or legs

According to the Kern County Public Health Services Department, 2937 cases of Valley Fever were reported last year. However, it unknown how many cases go unreported because the symptoms are similar to the common cold. It is advised to be aware of these symptoms because this initial state could worsen into acute and chronic coccidioidomycosis. These stages can then lead to missing months of work or death.

The Environmental Health News stated that 23,634 deaths occurred between 2013-2016 in Kern Country from Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD).  Included in these diseases are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.  There are no cures for these diseases, but treatment can prevent them from worsening.

Workers have to be careful and knowing of these illnesses in order to recognize the symptoms and seek immediate medical care if the symptoms listed above persist.

 

Lastly, workers can take a safety pledge to never compromise their own safety or the safety of co-workers to get the job done, actively look for hazards, promptly report them, and take appropriate action to warn others.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report. 

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or becomes ill due to work condition, please contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Worker deaths could trigger a workers’ compensation claim for surviving dependents

March 6, 2019 | 6:00 am


Armando Gallegos had been working as a correctional officer for 13 years when he was attacked by 12 inmates at Kern Valley State Prison in April 2018. He suffered a broken vertebrae, a broken nose and a concussion, and spent five months trying to recover from those injuries.

Tragically, Gallegos died in September 2018 at age 56. Just recently, the Kern County Coroner’s Office released his cause of death: “congestive heart failure due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease, with contributing of advanced conduction disease and history of assault by inmates.”

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had recommended attempted homicide charges for inmates involved in the attack. The group said information on possible new charges was pending the results of the coroner’s autopsy.

The cause of death announcement brings to light legal issues that arise with the death of workers, and the compensation families can receive with a loved one’s passing.

Families do not often assume that a worker’s death could trigger a workers’ compensation claim on behalf of the surviving dependents. Death benefits may be due when death occurs through a single industrially-related event, or within 240 weeks of an industrial injury resulting in death. However, a new California Supreme Court case significantly broadened what can be determined an industrial death and lowers the standard of proof for such claims.

Learn more about workers’ compensation and work fatalities here:

 

The Standard of Proof 

South Coast Framing Inc. v. WCAB (Clark) completely changed burden of proof for families seeking survivor death benefits. In South Coast Framing, the Court rejected previous standards of proof, such as “significant factor” and “material factor.” Instead, the court determined that the correct standard is that “the employment be one of the contributing causes without which the injury would not have occurred.”

The court described the standard of contributing cause as little crumbs off the crust of a 12-inch pie. In other words, the contributing cause would be so miniscule that you would not notice it if were missing.

 

Mysterious Circumstances 

Oftentimes, even determining contributing cause can seem challenging to surviving dependents. Sometimes the circumstances involving the death are so inexplicable that courts have indicated that they will rely on the fundamental principal that all reasonable doubts as to whether an injury is compensable are to be resolved in favor of the employee. This standard is particularly beneficial in cases where no autopsy is performed.

 

Benefits

Death benefits are payments to a spouse, children or other dependents if an employee dies with employment being a contributing cause. This includes burial expenses of up to $10,000, and medical expenses incurred.

The amount of the death benefit depends on the number of dependents. In cases with a single adult dependent, the surviving dependent may be entitled to a benefit of $250,000. For three adult total dependents, that number goes up to $320,000. In the case of one or more totally dependent minors, payment of death benefits will continue at least until the youngest minor’s 18th birthday; disabled minors receive benefits for life. Death benefits are paid at the total temporary disability rate, which is two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly earnings.

The period within which to commence proceedings for the collection of death benefits is one year from death; or within 240 weeks of an industrial injury resulting in death.

 

Dependents

The law distinguishes between total and partial dependents of the decedent. Minor children and spouses who earn $30,000 or less are conclusively considered total dependents. The Labor Code allows for two more types of dependents; those who are good-faith members of the deceased employee’s family or household, and those with specified marital, blood or adopted relationships with the decedent. These include:

  • grandchild;.
  • father or mother;.
  • father-in-law or mother-in-law;.
  • grandfather or grandmother;.
  • brother or sister;.
  • uncle or aunt;.
  • brother-in-law or sister-in-law; and.
  • nephew or niece.

In these cases, the amount of dependency must still be proven.

 

Additional Benefits

Workers’ compensation laws allow for additional benefits to the defendants of specified employees. These employees include public safety officers, firefighters, public officials, and correctional officers. The benefits range from extending survivor benefits beyond the age of eighteen for a minor dependent to scholarships for surviving minors.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at work, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is home to two state certified workers’ compensation specialist attorneys, Beatriz Trejo and James Yoro. Mr. Yoro has also been recognized in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Lawyers” listings.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Staying safe in the hot summer and how to prevent, ID, and treat heat exhaustion

July 11, 2018 | 10:22 am


Lots of regions throughout California are experiencing heat waves this summer, including in Kern County and record temperatures hitting Southern California in particular. In these cases, it’s important to be extra careful to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses occur when the ability to sweat fails and body temperature rises quickly, and can lead to delirium, organ damage and even death. The reason is scary: the brain and vital organs are effectively cooked as body temperatures rise to a dangerous level in a matter of minutes.

In fact, nearly 250 people died in the United States from exposure to excessive heat, according to Injury Facts 2017, a report produced by the National Safety Council. Thousands of others are affected.

There are several heat-related illnesses, including heatstroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps. Those most at risk include infants and young children, elderly people, pets, people with long-term illnesses, athletes and people who work outdoors.

For this article, and since Chain | Cohn | Stiles focuses on accident and injury law, including work injuries and workers’ compensation, we’ll focus on what you can do to prevent heat illnesses while working outdoors, how to identify symptoms, and what to do if you or someone you know suffers a heat-related illness.

 

PREVENTION

The best way to avoid a heat-related illness is to limit exposure outdoors during hot days. Let air conditioning be your friend. But, if you must work outdoors, here are some important tips:

  • Drink more liquid than you think you need and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing, a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat.
  • Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks.
  • Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest part of the day, typically from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and re-apply every two hours; sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself.
  • Use buddy system to watch for symptoms

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health – also known as Cal/OSHA – has led the charge on developing stringent regulations to protect employees working outdoors in the heat. Overall, these regulations require California employers with outdoor workers to provide more than adequate water, shade, rest breaks and training. This rule applies when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Additional requirements go into effect when outdoor temperatures top 95 degrees. You can find all of the regulations under Title 8 Section 3395 – Heat Illness Prevention.

 

WARNING SINGS

Symptoms of heat-related illnesses are similar to those of the flu and can include severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms include profuse sweating, clammy or pale skin, dizziness, rapid pulse and normal or slightly elevated body temperature, according to the CHIPS study by UC Davis.

Specifically, take note of these 10 symptoms to ID heat illness:

  1. Extremely high body temperature.
  2. Hot, dry, skin. An inability to cool the body through perspiration may cause the skin to feel dry.
  3. Increased heart and respiration rates as blood pressure drops and the heart attempts to maintain adequate circulation.
  4. Throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting due to dehydration.
  5. Weakness, fainting, or dizziness – especially in standing up quickly – due to low blood pressure from dehydration.
  6. Muscle cramps.
  7. Dark-colored urine – a sign of dehydration
  8. Confused, hostile, or seemingly intoxicated behavior
  9. Pale or bluish skin color in advanced cases due to constricted blood vessels
  10. Seizures or unconsciousness

 

WHAT TO DO

Ridding the body of excess heat is crucial for survival. Here’s what you can do if you or someone you know is experiencing a heat-related illness, courtesy of the California Department of Industrial Relations.

  • Move the person into a half-sitting position in the shade or air-conditioned area, or fan and spray with cool water. If humidity is below 75 percent, spray the victim with water and fan them vigorously; if humidity is above 75 percent, apply ice to neck, armpits or groin, or having them take a cool shower.
  • Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen.
  • Loosen or remove unnecessary clothing.
  • Give them water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages, or a sports drink.
  • Stretch affected muscles.
  • Call for emergency medical help immediately if symptoms are more severe.

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If you or someone you know has suffered an injury while at work, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com for more information.

Infographic: 12 steps of the workers’ compensation legal process

February 14, 2018 | 10:34 am


To many, a job can mean making sure you and your family live comfortably day to day. So, when a work injury occurs, you want to make sure you and your family will be taken care of if you are not able to work.

To assist those who have been injured on the job and are trying to figure out how to maneuver the confusing workers’ compensation legal system, the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has produced an infographic that outlines 12-steps in the workers’ compensation process.

Click here to view and download the infographic, and you can read the 12 steps below:

  1. Worker suffers an illness or injury while on the job.
  2. The employer must be notified of the injury or illness immediately.
  3. The employer will give the employee a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC-1), which the employee must fill out and bring back to the employer within 30 days.
  4. The employer’s insurance must authorize medical treatment within 1 day and submit a comp claim to your insurer within 5 days.
  5. Within 14 days, the insurer will send your employer a notice notify you whether your workers’ comp claim has been denied, delayed, or accepted.
  6. If denied, all benefits will stop. If delayed, the insurer will have up to 90 days to investigate, and medical treatment will continue. If accepted, you’ll receive workers’ compensation indemnity benefits and medical treatment.
  7. If denied, contact a workers’ compensation attorney.
  8. If accepted or delayed, both parties start medical discovery and take depositions. Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to guide you through the process.
  9. If denied, the parties must try the issue for the denial before the case can proceed.
  10. Once medical discovery is complete, the parties start settlement negotiations. If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the parties will have a Mandatory Settlement Conference.
  11. If the parties cannot settle at the Mandatory Settlement Conference, the case proceeds to trial.
  12. A workers’ compensation case can settle by either a lump sum amount or weekly payments with lifetime medical care.

Workers’ Compensation Claim Filing Process

Similarly, the workers’ compensation claim filing process can be daunting and complicated. That’s why it’s always good to have a dedicated workers’ compensation legal team on your side to help you through the many different complications associated with any form of claim filing process.

Here are the three essential steps of the workers’ compensation process, as outlined in the Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation website:

Step One: File An Injury Report

The very first step in the workers’ compensation claim filing process is to file an injury report with your employer. Without filing an injury report, there is no legal record of your work injury. This should always be the first step in the claim process because otherwise, there will be no official record of the injury and proceeding with the case will be exceptionally difficult. Never wait to file your report, either. Always get the paperwork done as close to the date of the injury as possible.

Step Two: File Your Compensation Claim

After you have filed your injury report with your employer, you must file a workers’ compensation claim. Be very descriptive in your claim. Include in your claim things like names of witnesses to the injury, medical records and any other details that pertain to your injury and case. The more detailed you are in your report, the more weight your case will likely carry.

Step Three: Get A Medical Exam

Often, the employer and/or their insurance provider will require that you, the injured party, to undergo a medical examination. This is so that they can determine whether or not your injury claim is valid. If eligible, the insurance company should allocate benefits. Generally, after this initial medical examination, it is a good idea to seek a second opinion. Unfortunately, there have been situations where the medical examiner chosen by the employer and/or their insurance company has been extremely biased. Getting a second professional medical examination helps to keep that from happening.

Lastly, it’s important to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer. If any of the steps above seem confusing, or if benefits are not being provided, don’t worry — our legal team can help guide you through the paperwork and legal terminology.

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If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Steps to take to identify and prevent heat-related illness at work

June 7, 2017 | 8:53 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo appeared in the Kern Business Journal

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Summer is here, and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Kern County, employers and employees must take precautions against the summer heat.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death, with local agricultural and construction industries are particularly affected when temperatures rise.

Under California’s Heat Illness Prevention Act, growers and contractors are required to provide water, shade and rest breaks to workers. In addition, supervisors are required to receive training on the signs of heat illness, and fines for not adhering to these rules could reach $25,000.

In addition, employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. To successfully tailor procedures to your work activities, evaluate and consider the special conditions at your work site. An employer should consider the size of the crew, the length of the work-shift, the ambient temperature, and the presence of personal protective equipment or additional sources of heat.

If you as a worker begin to suffer any of the signs or symptoms associated with heatstroke, you should immediately notify supervisors so that remedial steps can be taken. Do not delay in reporting your situation, as heat-related medical conditions can be life-threatening if left unattended. If first aid is not sufficient to treat symptoms or complaints, and medical attention is required, the filing of a workers’ compensation claim may be necessary.

Here are some other notes to keep in mind regarding heat-related illnesses:

 

Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water and salt; in other words, the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, and rapid heartbeat. If not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, the most serious of heat-related illnesses.

During a heatstroke, a person’s core body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, which directly affects the nervous system. Symptoms of heatstroke include fainting, throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, lack of sweating, hot or dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, confusion, disorientation, staggering, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 

Prevention

There are several ways to avoid a heat-related emergency. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid loss. Drink plenty of water when you know you will be in a hot environment. Make sure to wear loose, light, and lightweight clothing when exposed to heat to encourage heat release. Avoid hot, heavy meals during the work day. A heavy meal will divert blood flow to aid with digestion. Make sure to take frequent breaks to rest under shade, and hydrate.

In the event of a heat-related emergency, call 9-1-1. Move the victim to a cool shaded area, and loosen and remove any heavy clothing. If the person is still conscious, have them drink cool water, and try cooling the person down by fanning them. If ice is available, place ice packs are on the person’s head, armpits and groin. Heat-related illnesses are 100 percent preventable.

 

James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney focusing on work injuries at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles fights to protect the rights of all injured workers in California, including immigrants

April 12, 2017 | 9:18 am


Did you know that in California, Latinos are less likely to file workers’ compensation* claims, yet have the highest rates of work-related injuries? They are also less likely to seek medical attention, have less access to medical facilities, and face the highest percentage of retaliation at work.

Undocumented workforce, in particular, suffer the most for fear of losing their jobs or facing negative reaction from their employers when they are hurt on the job.

Attorneys from the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been speaking out about the rights of all injured workers in California — documented and undocumented. The message: It’s vital for lawmakers in California to implement laws that continue to strengthen the rights and protections of all its workers, including undocumented immigrants.

“Latinos are the lifeblood of many industries in California, particularly in the Central Valley, and contribute tremendously to our nation’s economy,” said Beatriz Trejo, workers’ compensation attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “They deserve equal protection under law.”

Trejo served as the moderator for a recent California Applicants’ Attorney Association (CAAA), Latino Caucus, symposium that aimed to educate on the issues affecting Latino workers in California. Trejo is the president for the Bakersfield Chapter of CAAA.

The symposium focused on these alarming statistics: Latinos account for 59.4 percent of all workplace injuries and 37.8 percent of all workplace deaths. They experience a higher rate of injuries in California because of their employment industries — agriculture, warehouse and packing, food processing plants, or truck driving to name a few.

Workers’ compensation claims are less reported among undocumented immigrants because their immigration status is used as a weapon of intimidation. Despite the passage of strong labor laws, they are rarely enforced, according to coverage from Vida en el Valle, a publication that covers news from the Latino community in the Central Valley.

Because of these concerns, Trejo has been speaking at various “community town hall” meetings throughout Kern County, including Lamont, Arvin, Delano, Taft and Bakersfield. They are hosted by the Immigration Justice Collaborative, a group of volunteer attorneys who aim to educate undocumented residents in Kern County on their basic legal rights.

During the town hall meetings, Trejo gives a brief description of the rights of injured workers under the California Labor Code, and meets briefly with those with additional questions. Under Labor Code §1019: “It is unlawful for an employer or any other person or entity to engage in, or to direct another person or entity to engage in, unfair immigration-related practices against any person for the purpose of, or with the intent of, retaliating against any person for exercising any right protected under this code or by any local ordinance applicable to employees.”

And under Labor Code §98.6, “No person shall discharge an employee or in any manner discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment” for filing work injury claims, for example.

Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are Latino with 2.4 million (22 percent) residing in California alone. In California’s workforce, it’s estimated that about one in ten workers is undocumented.

“It’s critical to continue to help Latino and undocumented workers with their work injury claims, to make sure they are fairly compensated and make sure their rights are protected,” Trejo said.

Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are Latino with 2.4 million (22 percent) residing in California alone, according to Vida en el Valle. In California, it’s estimated that about one in 10 workers are undocumented.

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If you or someone you know is injured on the job, please contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website, bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Safety Tips: ‘Cumulative trauma’ injuries from work, and how to avoid them

August 31, 2016 | 6:00 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorneys James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo, appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of the Kern Business Journal. The Journal is a bi-monthly publication by The Bakersfield Californian that showcases business and industry developments across Kern County.

This article focuses on important tips to prevent cumulative trauma injuries in the workplace. This occurs when there is repetitive strain in the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons. To view the article in the publication, click here. To see the entire publication online, click here

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In today’s technology-driven work life, it is easy to imagine an 8-hour day sitting behind a computer screen. Alternatively, we are exposed to long hours of standing or repetitive movements, which may lead to what is called a cumulative trauma injury, which occurs over time, as opposed to one caused by a particular event leading to a specific injury.

California law recognizes both of these injuries equally. The following are some tips for avoiding repetitive trauma injuries in the workplace:

Take breaks and use them wisely

No matter what activity you perform most in your daily work life – sitting, typing, lifting or bending, for example – your body is not likely meant to tolerate it for long periods of time. Make sure to take breaks from these activities by avoiding them. Avoid leaving your desk to simply sit in the break room. Avoid straining your eyes at your computer to check text messages on your phone. Instead do what would seem like the opposite – like walking or stretching.

Make sure to tell your doctor

The most common question in a cumulative trauma injury is, “When did the symptoms start?” It is quite rare for a person to actually remember the first time they experienced any type of symptoms. For the most part, a person will ignore symptoms and simply attribute them to being tired or sore in hopes that they will go away. However, this is rarely the case. A cumulative trauma injury is one with a prolonged period of injurious exposure. This means that whatever activity you are performing at work is causing your pain and discomfort and will continue to accumulate unless you change something.

Stay hydrated

With temperatures above 100 degrees, it’s easy to fall behind on liquid intake. Dehydration and heat exhaustion poses a threat particularly for people engaged in outdoor activities. The long Kern County summers makes this threat an ongoing issue that must be addressed daily.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Stress can impair your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness and injury. Often we are confined to the daily routine without proper rest which leads to stress if an appropriate break or vacation is not enjoyed. Vacations are an important part of maintaining a healthy and long work life. Remember, rest and rejuvenation is vital components to avoiding injury from repetitive work activities.

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RELATED MEDIA

— Compiled by Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.