Employers are required to comply with OSHA’s safety rules and regulations, which include equipment and machinery used at worksites. Workers who are injured by defective or dangerous equipment are eligible for workers’ compensation. However, they may also be entitled to further compensation from the manufacturer of the faulty equipment and if negligent, their employer, too. A work injury attorney can advise injured workers what they may be entitled to.
Workers Comp May Not Be Enough to Compensate for Injuries
Workers in high-risk industries, including construction, manufacturing, factory, and warehouse settings are at a higher risk for suffering from work-related injuries from equipment, machinery, and products they use on the job. The injuries that these workers experience are typically covered by workers’ compensation that pays for medical bills and if they cannot work, lost wages.
Often, injuries from faulty equipment can be temporarily or permanently disabling. In the case of a permanent disability, the worker will be unable to return to their job or any other jobs. Workers’ compensation and any settlement may not be enough to fairly compensate the injured worker. However, it is possible to seek compensation when negligence has occurred on behalf of the employer or manufacturer of the faulty machinery, equipment, or product.
Employers are Responsible for Maintaining a Safe Workplace
Employers are responsible under OSHA laws for maintaining a safe workplace. This includes making sure that the equipment, machinery, and products that their workers use are safe. They also need to make sure that their workers are properly trained in using those items to avoid injury.
Workers can be seriously injured when employers fail in their duty to:
- Maintain machinery and equipment
- Provide proper personal protection equipment
- Replace missing, broken, or worn out machinery parts
- Train workers and advise of dangers
Under the worker cannot go outside of the workers’ comp system to sue the employer. To file a legal claim against the employer, the employee’s work injury attorney would need to prove that gross negligence had occurred, or the employer had a wanton disregard for workers’ safety.
Not All Equipment Failures are Fault of Employers
Despite the best efforts of employers with complying with OSHA-required inspections and training requirements, equipment can still fail and injure employees. The failure could be because of product defects that the employer would have no way to anticipate or prevent. This brings in the issue of product liability with the equipment manufacturers being held responsible.
When an equipment manufacturer has supplied defective equipment or machinery, an injured worker could pursue a cause of action against them by going outside the workers’ comp system. There are three different product liability lawsuits that could apply for injured workers that include defect in the:
- Design of the equipment/product. When a product or piece of equipment was poorly designed and then caused injury because of that, the liability lawsuit would focus on the manufacturer’s failure in design. An example of this could be a piece of equipment that did not have an adequately designed emergency shut off that could be used if an employee’s clothing were to get stuck in it.
- Manufacturing of the equipment/product. When the manufacturer has failed to manufacture its equipment or product up to accepted standards, the liability lawsuit’s focus would be on manufacturing defects if a worker were to be injured. An example of this could be the manufacturer cutting expenses by using an inferior metal that is not as strong as would normally be used in a piece of construction equipment.
- Marketing of the equipment/product. Manufacturers are required to provide instructions and labeling that warns of any possible dangers that could cause injury when using their products or equipment. When these warnings are not given and people are injured, the liability lawsuit would focus on the marketing failure committed by the manufacturer. An example of this could be that a manufacturer neglected to warn of the risk of shock is the equipment is not properly grounded.
How Can Workers Protect Their Rights to Compensation?
Time is of the essence when workers are injured on the job to preserve their rights to compensation. The first step employees need to take is to make sure that they receive first aid or medical treatment as soon as possible after being injured. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, injured workers need to make their employers aware of the injury and start the process of filing a workers’ comp claim. While receiving worker comp benefits, the injured worker needs to cooperate with their healthcare provider in an effort to recover from the injury to return to work if they are expected to recover enough to do so.
The injured worker will need to advise their doctors that the injury occurred at work. This is how the doctor will know that the medical bills are to be covered under the employer’s workers’ comp insurance. The employee needs to let their employer know what doctor(s) they are receiving treatment from and give the employer their medical records that pertain to the injury. Employers are not entitled to free access to the worker’s doctor or medical records that do not pertain to the injury.