California has been a leader nationwide in deciding whether workers who contract Covid-19 on the job can claim workers’ compensation benefits. Without decisive input from state governments, workers compensation insurers would almost certainly refuse to cover the disease because it would eat into profits. But because many states are staying silent on the matter, workers who have contracted the disease on the job have been left in limbo or had their claims denied despite being considered “essential.”
Thankfully, California’s approach has been better. But during the pandemic, the disease itself is not the only workplace danger we need to be vigilant of. A recent article in the LA Times notes that increasing production demands coupled with worker absences could be a recipe for disaster in already dangerous jobs.
A good example is the food processing industry, particularly jobs like meat processing and packaging. Statistics show that even prior to Covid-19, workers in the food sector were 9.5 times more likely than other workers to be killed on the job. The meatpacking industry suffered worker limb amputations at an average rate of two per week.
Demands for meat products haven’t gone down significantly since the pandemic began. Therefore, to compensate for worker absences due to Covid, some facility managers have simply increased the pace of processing lines and put more work on fewer workers. In an industry where workers routinely operate saws, knives and other dangerous instruments, this is not a responsible way to meet production demands.
There is no end in sight for the pandemic, and it is likely that we will hear even more horror stories like these as the infection and death rates continue to rise. Hopefully, workers in California who have contracted Covid-19 on the job or suffered workplace injuries because of changes caused by Covid will demand the workers’ compensation benefits they are entitled to.
If you’d like help filing a claim or better understanding your rights, contact our office to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.