Eley Law Firm
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Workers' Compensation
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Protecting the Rights of Injured Workers

Colorado Workers' Compensation Law Blog

What are Colorado workers' rights regarding toxic exposure?

Some types of employees here in Colorado know that their jobs carry a degree of risk. These dangers typically relate to physical safety, such as a risk of falling or the risks of operating heavy machinery. There are some workers, however, who face other types of dangers that may not immediately come to mind. These are workers who, for many reasons, may be exposed to toxic or unsafe chemicals while they are at work. These employees may not be fully aware of what workers' rights entail if they are working in close proximity to hazardous materials, though they do exist.

Employers are legally obligated to disclose to their workers that toxic chemicals may be present in the workplace and also to supply information regarding the chemicals. They are expected to have Material Safety Data Sheets that describe how to handle the chemicals safely and contains descriptive data relating to each chemical. Warning labels and signage should also be in place on any potentially-dangerous product or workplace area.

Repetitive injuries can be covered by workman's comp in Colorado

Many employees have to perform physical labor as part of their job. Back injuries can sometimes result from repetitive lifting motions. An employee might notice the injury right away, or it may occur when he or she is not at work. However it happens, these injuries can be difficult to prove, and employers and insurance companies may be reluctant to provide workman's comp. Even so, Colorado employees are still entitled to those benefits.

The symptoms of a back injury may not occur while an employee is at work, or they could happen after the employee has already performed the stressful behavior numerous times. Lifting, twisting and other motions repeated over a long period of time can weaken a person’s back. A back injury can be very debilitating for the person who experiences it. It can not only affect a person’s ability to work but also the ability to enjoy life.

Colorado gas workers may need workman's comp for benzene exposure

Employers are obligated to keep the safety of their employees a top priority. This means ensuring that they have a risk-free work environment, adequate training and functional equipment, and that other safety measures are in place. However, some employees are still at-risk for illness or injury because their companies are not required to follow certain guidelines to which other industries are subject. They may end up filing for workman's comp, as some Colorado natural gas workers may have to do, according to reports of increased exposure to a potentially harmful chemical -- benzene.

The chemical benzene is said to be a cancer-causing component that is found in flowback water from the fracking process, though it is also present in gasoline and cigarette smoke. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration typically limits the amount of benzene that is permitted to be exposed in a particular workplace, though many oil and gas companies have an exemption from those regulations. A recent study took measurements of the levels of chemical exposure that well site employees in two states -- including Colorado -- experience, and it claims that it found those levels to be higher than what is said to be safe.

How OSHA helps Colorado's injured workers

Many workers in Colorado and elsewhere may not know this, but they have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to thank for safer work environments. OSHA was created in 1970 to regulate and enforce safety measures that keep employees from getting sick, injured or even dying. Even if employees are aware of all of this, they may still be uncertain as to precisely how OSHA benefits injured workers.

OSHA handles a variety of areas that can cause harm to workers. This includes biological agents, chemical hazards, construction safety, ergonomics, air quality and other topics. They have strict regulations that pertain to each area with the intention of preventing accidents in the workplace.

Filing for workman's comp in Colorado

Colorado employees typically take great pride in a job well done. Their chosen profession is one that they likely enjoy, and many workers feel as though they are a part of a family. If that worker becomes injured on the job, he or she may be uncertain of how to proceed. Filing for workman's comp is not something that an employee does regularly, and the process can be daunting, considering that all they may want to do is focus on getting well.

Here at the Eley Law Firm, we have extensive experience regarding how to properly file for workers’ compensation benefits. We have been in practice for over 30 years and have assisted thousands of employees with this sometimes-intimidating task. There are certain steps an employee can take before filing for workman’s comp, and we can assist with each phase.

Families could seek death benefits after 2 workers electrocuted

Losing a loved one to a work-related accident is a tragedy no family should ever have to endure. Unfortunately, accidents can happen and may result in the death of an employee. Though Colorado employers generally take every precaution to protect their workers, there are times when a company’s action -- or inaction -- is squarely to blame. A worker’s family may decide to file for death benefits as part of a workers’ compensation claim in the event that the unthinkable should occur. This is the choice that some out-of-state families may face after two oil field workers were recently killed while on-the-job.

Officials say that the accident happened recently in an oil field when a pumping crew was attempting to remove a pump jack. As they were doing so, a cable from their truck apparently struck a power line. One worker was seriously injured and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital. Two other employees were electrocuted.

Oil refinery facing OSHA fines, possible workman's comp

Employers in Colorado generally want to do everything within their power to keep their workers safe from any harm. This can include providing proper training for employees, minimizing potential hazards or maintaining equipment. Failure to follow these types of measures could result in the injury -- or even death -- of an employee. A workman's comp claim could be filed by the employee or his or her family to cover any work-accident-related expenses. This could be what happens with regard to one out-of-state oil refinery who is accused of violating several safety regulations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a recent safety inspection at the refinery in question. Representatives of OSHA claim they found the refinery to have several violations -- three of which were serious, and five for which the refinery had been previously cited. Some of the repeat violations were for failing to protect employees from hot surfaces, failing to maintain electrical equipment and wiring and failing to keep floor grating level.

No Need to Show Seat is Defective to Prove Resulting Injury

Western States Fire Protection v. Olsen, No. 13CA1748 (Colo. App. March 27, 2014)

The Court of Appeals ruled that a claimant does not have to show a vehicle is defective to prove that he suffered an occupational disease by prolonged driving of the vehicle. The claimant asserted that he suffered an injury to his back from prolonged driving of a truck provided by the employer. Claimant worked for a company that installed and serviced fire alarms. As a NICET Level 3 fire life safety technician, the clamant drove to client's locations in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. The claimant began having problem in his back while driving the truck within 30 days of starting work for the company.

Employers Beware! Right to Select Doctor Can Pass to Claimant for Physician's Refusal to Treat for "Non-Medical Reasons."

Garcia v. McDonalds Corp. W.C. 9-862-853-01 (ICAO, January 2, 20140.

Colorado appeals courts have long held that the right to choose a doctor can pass to the claimant if the treating physician refuses to provide treatment for "non-medical reasons." However what defines a reason as non-medical has been somewhat unclear. Certainly, if a doctor isn't getting paid and therefore refuses to provide treatment, this would be a non-medical reason. But a diagnosis of a non-work related injury could be argued as a medical reason for not treating. However, in Garcia v. McDonalds, the ICAO determined that a doctor's refusal to treat because of a determination of causation is a non-medical reason and the right can to choose a doctor can then pass to the claimant if a new doctor is not promptly provided by the carrier.

Raging fire at coal mine injured workers

Colorado employees of all kinds are dedicated workers who take great pride in what they do. They trust that their employers will use every means at their disposal to maintain a safe work environment. Unfortunately, accidents can happen and often result in injury or even fatality. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently examining the circumstances surrounding an out-of-state coal mine fire that injured workers in order to determine whether the company is responsible.

Officials say that employees were working on a currently inactive mine site, preparing for activity to resume. A fire broke out in a silo, and several employees attempted to put it out. As they battled the flames, fiery debris fell on them, burning them very seriously. Enough ash fell from the fire that five workers had to dig themselves out of it before receiving medical treatment.

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