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Workers' Compensation: The Motivation of Safety Rules and Why They Often Should Not Apply

Posted by: Chad Hemmat | Friday, March 26, 2010 | 0 Comments | Back to Personal Injury Blog

Often, an employee who has been injured on the job will later find out that his employer is alleging that the injuries were due to the employee violating a safety rule. This type of defense is commonly known as a "Safety Rule Violation".

THE EFFECT
The effect of a declared safety rule violation is that it results in a 50% reduction in temporary and permanent benefits for the worker. This reduction in what an employer must pay is obviously a strong incentive to employers and their insurance carriers. If an employer is successful in asserting a Safety Rule Violation, it could potentially save them and their insurer A LOT of money.

All those savings come directly out of the employee's much needed benefits.

ELEMENTS
A classic example would be a construction worker who gets injured while not wearing his helmet on a construction site. This would be a legitimate safety rule violation if, and only if, the safety rule was:

(1) In WRITING,

(2) PROVIDED to employees as a policy,

(3) Actually ENFORCED as a policy, and

(4) There was CAUSATION between the violation and the safety rule.

WHAT TO DO?
If you get notice that your employing is claiming a Safety Rule Violation, ask yourself whether the alleged violation was really a policy at all, or whether it was really enforced, or whether the violation of the rule had anything to do with you getting injured or the extent of injury. If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you have a good chance of defeating a claim for Safety Rule Violation.

OUR EXPERIENCES
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we have successfully defeated a great majority of employer's efforts to allege an erroneous safety rule violation. Examples of these erroneous defenses that we have overcome include a delivery company that claimed it had a policy of requiring drivers to wear seat belts, even though half the seat belts in its vehicles were non-operational.

Another employer tried to claim the lack of a safety belt as a violation in a roof crush automobile accident with no evidence that the injuries would have been lessened in the least (if not made worse) had the employee worn his safety belt.

Other examples include the requirement to wear a roof harness when the employer never truly required roof harnesses be worn, and worse, did not have enough on site for all its workers.

Another company asserted the required wearing of the hard hat on the construction site was a safety rule violation even where the injury was entirely unrelated to head injury.

Imposing a safety rule violation requires a hearing. So the time to act is immediately. There are circumstances where employees have ignored claims of safety rule violation because the employee did not know the long term effects. But letting this issue slide can cost you thousands of dollars or more.

If your employer is claiming that there was a Safety Rule Violation in your work comp case, call us at Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn today and we would be happy to help you fully analyze your claim.


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