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Workers' Compensation

Fatal bacterial illness takes life of California researcher

Workers' compensation serves many purposes, but one of its most important ones is that it can provide death benefits to the surviving family of those who have died on the job. While physically-demanding jobs are usually considered to be the epicenter of most workplace accidents, those who are employed less physical fields are not immune from suffering at the hands of a mishap.

No matt the nature of a person's job, their survivors are still entitled to workers' compensation death benefits if their situation warrants it. Unfortunately, workers in a California research lab are finding this out the hard way after a researcher in a biological laboratory died as the result of an unexpected workplace illness.

The accident likely happened at a California Veteran's Affairs infectious diseases lab. After a 25-year-old man had been working with a rare strain of bacteria in order to develop a vaccine against a bacteria that causes meningitis and septicemia, he felt sick and asked his friends to take him to the hospital. After being taken to the hospital, he passed away from the illness he contracted.

While workers at the facility are expected to comply with general laboratory practices, including wearing gloves, gowns, and working in a safety cabinet while isolating bacteria, contaminations are always possible. While his fellow workers felt that he was adept at doing this work, something clearly went awry. For this reason, his fellow workers are being closely examined to make sure that they haven't been exposed to the same dangerous bacteria. In the meantime, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is conducting an investigation to determine what exactly led to the infection.

The family and friends of the young man are no doubt devastated by the loss of a brilliant man who was dedicated to the medical profession. As his family grieves, they will no doubt feel some relief that workers' compensation death benefits can help cover his final expenses and lost income. Furthermore, as his fellow workers mourn the loss of the fallen worker and continue without him to develop this vaccine, they should be made aware of their rights in the instance that the bacteria infection was not an isolated incident.

Source: Silicon Valley Mercury News, "Deadly infection claims San Francisco VA lab worker," May 3, 2012

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