Two recent incidents involving truckers and grain-processing plant workers in Nebraska make clear that work injuries don’t always just involve workers’ compensation claims. Workers’ compensation claims can lead to claims of negligence by third parties and/or develop into claims against employers for retaliating against employees.
The fundamental idea of workers’ compensation is that an employee can be compensated by the employer, regardless of fault, for a work injury. In exchange, the employee agrees to damages that are capped by law. However, if an injury is the fault of someone besides the employer, then that party can be sued for negligence. Such an incident may have happened in Lincoln earlier this week. One person was in critical condition at the hospital after he was hit while unloading a parked semi-trailer, according to this article.
“… the driver of a Freightliner full-sized delivery van reversed out of the loading dock area of Hy-Vee. As he backed up, he checked his mirrors but didn’t see another man unloading a parked semi-trailer, who was also delivering product to the store, Officer Katie Flood said.”
It appears that Mr. Scott L. Johnson, the 51-year-old Lincoln man who was hit, was the driver of the semi and was pinned between the van and his rig.
“He was out of surgery and in critical condition at Bryan West Campus Monday night, Capt. Bob Farber said.”
The incident at the Hy-Vee loading dock in southeast Lincoln just illustrates the danger posed to truckers and workers who load and unload trucks and rail cars. This danger was highlighted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed fines to sanction a firm in Alliance, Nebraska, for unsafe conditions in a grain processing plant. OSHA’s Local Emphasis Program for Grain Handling hazards led to the inspection, where investigators found 17 violations and proposed $61,000 in fines.
Violations included “fall hazards up to 15 feet while accessing the tops of rail cars and from ladderway openings and platforms lacking guardrails and open-sided work platforms …”; “grain dust explosion hazards …”; “personal protective equipment needs were not evaluated …”; and “lack of an occupational noise monitoring program including audiometric testing, noise monitoring and fitting and correct use of hearing protection …” were found, among other concerns.
“New Alliance handles and processes Great Northern and Pinto dry edible beans at locations in Alliance, Bridgeport, Gering, Hemingford and Mirage Flats. The company is a division of Alliance-based Western Cooperative Company known as WESTCO,” according to this news release.
An employee who reports an injury from an unsafe condition might also be opposing potentially illegal conduct by an employer and could have a claim beyond just a work-injury claim. These claims can often arise when employers discipline or terminate employees if they are believed to have been at fault for an injury. If you are being blamed for a work injury by your company, that shouldn’t stop you from filing a workers’ compensation claim, because fault shouldn’t matter in a workers’ compensation case. If you are being blamed for an injury, you might also be able to pursue a retaliation case.