For the purposes of this brief article, let's assume that you, as an employer, had an employee who was injured in January 2013. This employee filed a workers' compensation claim, which was allowed. The injured employee was unable to work for a period of 20 weeks. The employee also alleges that he was injured as the result of a specific safety requirement violation in regard to the equipment he was using when injured.
What should the employer do after such an injury and allegations?
The employer should preserve the equipment that gave rise to injury.Photographs should be taken of the equipment, and statements should be taken from any and all witnesses to the injury. Preserving this evidence is essential to defend the allegation of a violation of a specific safety requirement.
What are the potential consequences of an application for a violation of a specific safety requirement?
Unlike a typical workers' compensation claim, which can increase the premium for the employer, a violation of a specific safety requirement award is in the form of a penalty and is paid, assuming the finding of a violation, directly to the injured worker by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. The Bureau of Workers' Compensation then bills the employer for the amount of the award.
When a violation is found to have occurred, the Industrial Commission hearing officer uses a formula to calculate the amount of the award. As indicated, this injury being discussed occurred in 2013. As a result, a part of that formula is the maximum amount of temporary total disability benefit for 2013. In this case, that is $837 per week. For the purposes of this example, the injured worker received 20 weeks of temporary total disability benefits totaling $16,740. Further, the Industrial Commission hearing officer found that the violation was rather severe and assigned it a percentage of 40 (the hearing officer has the option of determining the severity of the violation and uses percentages between 15 and 50 percent in making a determination). The award would result in an amount of $6,696. Should the injury be more serious and more time allotted to temporary total disability benefits, the award could be quite high.
One thing in favor of the employer in the violation of a specific safety requirement application is that unlike a normal workers' compensation claim where the law is to be liberally construed in favor of the injured worker, the employer must have been shown to very specifically violate a rule setting forth safety requirements. Therefore, the standard is higher.