A workplace injury can have devastating consequences, resulting in lost wages as well as substantial medical bills. Employers have a duty to provide a safe environment at all times. Unfortunately, sometimes employers fail in this duty, as a recent case illustrates.
Contractor failed to provide safe work environment
Advanced Safety & Health reported that a Massachusetts based contractor, Twin Pines Construction, recently received several citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The citations were for alleged "willful, repeat and serious violations" of workplace safety standards at one of its work sites.
The violations were mainly related to insufficient fall protection safeguards. OSHA requirements state that fall protection devices must be available to employees who work six feet or higher above a lower level. These devices can include:
- Personal fall arrest systems
- Safety nets
- Guard rails
OSHA discovered that employees at the company's worksite were exposed to falls from anywhere between nine and 30 feet due to inadequate or completely absent fall protection safeguards.
Additionally, employees were also exposed to falls due to misuse of ladders. The company also received citations for improper fall protection training, lack of eye protection for employees working with nail guns, missing handrails and ungrounded electrical cords.
Finally, the three citations classified as "serious" stemmed from inadequately braced trusses, lack of fire extinguishers and a lack of protection from falling objects. The total number of violations resulted in approximately $290,000 worth of fines.
Workers' compensation protects employees injured from unsafe conditions
Employees face a higher chance of suffering an employment related injury when they are exposed to hazardous conditions, such as those described above. This is why most employers are required to purchase workers' compensation insurance. The workers' compensation system explains the types of benefits available to employees who are injured on the job and outlines a specific process for receiving the benefits.
Workers' compensation laws are designed to help employees who are injured while at an employer's worksite receive compensation for injuries. Workers' compensation is a "no fault" system. This means that any incident-related negligence is disregarded and the employee is automatically entitled to compensation for the injury.
Workers' compensation covers a variety of injuries and varies from state to state. In general, an employee may receive compensation for a pre-existing injury that is aggravated by a job, such as back pain that gets progressively worse over time.
Compensation may also be available for an employee who develops a disease, such as lung cancer, due to repeated exposure to harmful or toxic chemicals in the workplace. In some cases, compensation may also be available for mental strain brought about by an employer's harassment or a distressing work environment.
Finally, injuries caused by company facilities or equipment are typically covered. Therefore, if an employee is injured due to inadequate safeguards or equipment, he or she would likely be able to recover workers' compensation benefits.
An employee who receives an injury on the job may have questions about available workers' compensation benefits and may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. A qualified attorney can thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and aggressively pursue any available compensation.