All employers are required to provide a safe workplace for their employees. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets and enforces workplace safety standards, and all employers are required to comply with OSHA’s standards. OSHA monitors working conditions and issues citations and penalties to employers that fail to comply with its standards in Georgia and throughout the country.
Although the existence of an OSHA citation or penalty will not necessarily have an impact on a Georgia workers’ compensation claim, it may have an impact in some circumstances. For example, in some states, a worker may actually be entitled to increased benefits if an employer is issued an OSHA citation. Evidence of a willful OSHA violation may also be used to opt out of workers’ compensation or to bring a claim against another party, allowing an injured worker to potentially receive greater benefits.
That being said, an employee who is injured at work can still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of whether the employer is issued or accepts an OSHA citation. As the following discussion illustrates, employers are required to be familiar with OSHA regulations, and ignorance of the agency’s standards is not a valid defense for employers attempting to contest penalties.
Court Holds Ignorance of OSHA Regulations Not Valid Defense, Upholding Fines
A federal court of appeals recently held that an employer’s claim of ignorance of OSHA rules was not a valid defense to OSHA citations. According to a news source discussing the case and its implications, a 39-year-old HVAC installer fell through a skylight opening and onto a concrete floor 15 feet below. The man was hospitalized and eventually died from the injuries. The court documents stated that the skylights were about 10 feet long and were covered only with thin plastic sheeting. In addition, the employee was not wearing a fall-arrest system, even though the foreman had the systems with him at the job site.
As a result, the company was cited for failing to protect its employees from falls. OSHA issued the employer a $49,000 fine for a willful violation that showed a reckless disregard for employee safety. The company argued that the foreman was unaware of the regulations, and therefore it was not a willful violation. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected the company’s argument. The court stated that the company should not be able to use its poor training as a defense, since all employers are expected to be familiar with OSHA regulations.
Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to benefits through a Georgia workers’ compensation claim. At the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., we have decades of experience in workers’ compensation claims and can help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Since our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys were formerly insurance defense attorneys, our office has the advantage of understanding the other side’s perspective in order to advance our clients’ cases at trial or through settlement. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 404-303-7770 or contact us through our online form.
More Blog Entries:
Workplace Injuries Caused by the Negligence of Coworkers in Georgia, May 7, 2018, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog
Lawsuits Against Co-Workers and the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, April 19, 2018, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog