Cal/OSHA begins investigation of fatal construction site accident

The California Department of Industrial Relations includes an important agency that is responsible for ensuring workplace safety. The formal name of agency is the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, but it is informally known as "Cal/OSHA" in a nod to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Cal/OSHA is responsible for many tasks, but none is more important than the investigation of workplace accidents and the enforcement of the state's workplace safety laws.

A recent accident in Kelseyville demonstrates how the agency works. On Tuesday, October 23, an apprentice carpenter working on a shop building at the Kelseyville High School was severely injured when he fell from a scissors lift. The man was flown to a nearby hospital, but he died from his injuries the next day. Personnel of the Kelseyville Fire Department responded to the emergency call from the site, but no further details of the accident have been released.

Cal/OSHA was notified of the accident on November 1. Apparently, no one can explain why the report to Cal/OSHA was delayed for a week after the victim died. A spokesman for Cal/OSHA said that the agency was commencing an investigation of the accident. If Cal/OSHA concludes that the man's employer or the general contractor violated state safety regulations, the agency has six months to issue citations. The agency has the power to impose significant fines for any safety violation that it may find.

The victim's family more than likely has a claim under the state's workers' compensation system for death benefits regardless of whether Cal/OSHA finds that anyone was at fault. The workers' compensation system provides financial benefits for any work-related accident. If death results, the benefits are paid to the victim's survivors.

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