You would think that by 2015 employers would have realized that unsafe working conditions are dangerous, in violation of the law, can kill people and leave the family left behind in poverty. But that’s not the case. Plenty of workers still get killed on the job…and for no good reason. If you have any doubts here are just some of the workplace fatalities that occurred in June of 2015
- Open-flame heater likely cause of Coalgate oil rig fire; 3 deaths and serious injuries to 2 others
- 62-year-old worker dies after manufacturer ignores safety hazards
- 7,600-pound conveyor crushes worker after weld failure – a preventable death, says OSHA
- 7-ton buoy hits, kills 2 workers and injures 2 others at Pearl Harbor naval facility
Not only are employers subject to OSHA fines and work comp claims, the employee and/or their family may sue directly if there is an exception to the work comp exclusivity rule. In most states a worker may sue directly where there was concealment of a safety hazard, removal of a safety guard or other intentional malfeasance. Florida’s statute is an example. Pursuant to section 440.011(1)(b), Florida Statutes, in order for an employee to successfully prove an intentional tort as an exception to the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation, the employee must prove, with clear and convincing evidence, the below-required elements of an intentional tort:
- The employer deliberately intended to injury the employee, or,
- The employer,
- Engaged in conduct that it knew, based upon explicit warnings specifically identifying a known danger, was virtually certain to result in death or injury to the employee and,
- The employee was not aware of the risk because the danger was not apparent and,
- The employer deliberately concealed or misrepresented the danger so as to prevent the employee from exercising an informed judgment and
- The conduct was a legal cause of the employees’ injury or death.
Other statutes are not as protective of employers. As a trend, where legislation reduces benefits, the courts have chipped away at the exclusivity rule, ruling there has been a change in the “bargain” that comes with exclusivity.
Bottom line: regardless of what the precise law is in your state, a safe workplace culture protects workers, the company brand and the bottom line. There is no substitute for taking the proper steps to create a safe workplace including the training of managers, supervisors, foreman, workers.