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California film set under investigation for employee's death

California employers will come under investigation whenever an employee suffers a workplace death.

However, such investigations are initiated as a matter of course, and do not necessarily mean that the business is responsible for workers' compensation, or OSHA penalties or fines. If an employee died from an underlying medical condition, then presumably a review of medical records and history will clarify the situation.

The information gathered in an OSHA investigation is important for employers for two reasons:

  1. Death benefits under workers' compensation laws. If the family members believe that a death occurred as a result of a workplace accident, then they may be entitled to death benefits under California's workers' compensation laws.
  2. Serious and willful misconduct. The outcome of an OSHA investigation can clarify an employer's responsibility, if any. If OSHA determines that the employer violated health and safety regulations, then in addition to workers' compensation benefits, the business may be held liable for increased penalties for serious and willful misconduct.

Hopefully this will not be the outcome the producer of a movie being filmed in Los Angeles. One of the workers on the set was a welder and a water safety expert. He was working inside of a large water tank when he became unresponsive. According to law enforcement officials who arrived on the scene, it appeared that the California worker suffered a heart attack.

Now, Cal/OSHA is investigating this man's death, which is standard procedure. They will specifically be looking to answer the question as to whether this man's death was a result of natural causes, which will take the film set off of the hook, or whether this man's death was work-related and can be tied to dangerous working conditions on the set.

Source: TMZ, "'The Lone Ranger' Gov. Org. Investigating Death on Set," Sept. 25, 2012

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