Employers must keep workplace safe and provide workers’ compensation

Workers all across the country have a friend in the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA sets standards employers must follow to protect the health and safety of their employees on the job.

When accidents do happen, despite OSHA's best efforts, the state of Wisconsin's safety net, in the form of the workers' compensation system, helps make up for the expenses caused by injury.

OSHA violations led to accident

Two Wisconsin construction companies recently received citations from OSHA after their failure to observe safety rules led to a tragic accident. A crane collapsed at a highway bridge construction site, killing a truck driver and seriously injuring another worker.

One of the construction companies was cited for willful noncompliance with crane operator standards. The company was supposed to designate someone to direct crane lifting and hold a number of meetings to plan out the crane lift operations. The violation was labeled as willful because the company showed indifference to worker safety or voluntarily disregarded OSHA requirements.

Violations are considered serious if there was a substantial probability that the employer knew or should have known that a potential hazard could lead to death or serious injury.

The same company received five additional citations for serious violations, ranging from failing to use suitable signaling methods to allowing a crane to travel while carrying a suspended load. The company could be fined $105,000.

The other company, meanwhile, was subcontracted to put up bridge girders. It was cited for four serious violations, including its failure to comply with the crane operating standards. Its penalties could amount to $13,220.

Workers' compensation

The worker who was injured in this accident should be able to receive benefits through Wisconsin's workers' compensation program, including medical and income costs.

Over 98% of Wisconsin's workforce is covered by workers' compensation, starting on the very first day of employment. Employers who have three or more employees must participate in the workers' compensation program by purchasing insurance. A few exceptions apply. For example, farms need not participate unless they have at least six employees on any 20 days in a year.

Bills for treatment by a licensed Wisconsin health care provider of the injured worker's choice will be paid by workers' compensation. Even a provider who is not licensed in Wisconsin can be used, if the employer agrees.

Income benefits are payable while an injured worker is recovering, up to two-thirds of the weekly wages up to the maximum allowed by law.

Workers' compensation disputes

If an injured worker's claim is disputed by the employer or the insurer, the worker can ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. Grounds for the worker's claim could be that the employer did not report the accident or that the worker was not given all the benefits that should have been provided.

An injured worker needs help when a dispute arises over workers' compensation benefits. The best resource is an attorney who has experience in this area and can vigorously protect a worker's rights.

Abstract: Employers who disobey OSHA rules put workers at risk of death or serious injury, as in a recent crane collapse. Workers' compensation benefits provide medical care and income after injury.