Five years after the death of a 30-year-old man at his place of work at a mine, his employers have been fined $360,000 for the role they played in the accident which ultimately took his life.
A Dangerous Workplace
On November 1st, 2012, the victim was working at North American Quarry and Construction Services, working as part of a team that mined for shale. He was in the process of manually loading a drill when he got caught in the shaft of the machine’s auger.
The auger is essentially the drill bit portion of the machine and in mines, the auger is very large and very strong. When the man became entangled, the auger continued to rotate and drill, causing serious damage to his body. The injuries were so severe that he died at the scene of the accident before help could arrive.
The Violations: What His Employer Did Wrong
When a worker dies in a job-related accident, the Labor Department’s Mine and Safety and Health Administration performs an investigation to determine if the accident could have been prevented and if there are conditions on the job site that would potentially harm another worker in the future. In this case, several things were determined.
The investigation revealed that the emergency stop switch, which each drill is required to have, had been removed by the employer. Additionally, they failed to properly train the victim and they sent him to work alone on a job that should have been performed by several employees.
For these reasons, the company was issued three flagrant violations, which means that the company engaged in “a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious injury.” One high negligence violation was also issued and it was determined that fines of $360,000 would be issued.
Hopefully, this large sum will make the owner and managers of this company think twice before they create a dangerous workplace again.
Miners Always At Risk
It’s long been known that anyone who works for a mining company is employed in a dangerous industry. Some of the more common accidents which hurt and kill miners every year include:
If the work being performed is underground and stabilizing precautions to the ceiling and walls aren’t taken, a collapse could occur, trapping, suffocating, and injuring workers inside. Regular checks of the shaft should be performed to check for cracks and sinking of the ground.
In the olden days, miners used to take a bird into the mine. Although cute, these birds provided a life-saving purpose – to check for poisonous gas. The birds would succumb to the gas buildup before humans did, warning them that they needed to get out.
Not only can gasses be poisonous, but a buildup of gas can result in an explosion. Steps need to be taken to create a ventilation system and equipment must be monitored to ensure sparks don’t set off an explosion.
Whether it’s because of a removed safety feature or because of a defect in the machinery, if one of the heavy, powerful machines malfunctions, in a matter of seconds the life of a worker can be forever altered.
Slip & Falls
Uneven surfaces, spilled liquids, and sinking ground can cause a worker to fall.
It may be surprising to learn that noise is dangerous but loud machinery and long-term exposure can cause hearing loss.
Medical Expenses Add Up Quickly
Whenever someone is seriously injured, it typically requires weeks, months, and even years of treatments for them to regain even a semblance of the life they enjoyed before their accident. Medical treatments like surgery, medications, and physical therapy are very expensive and if they are unable to return to work, it’s likely there are no regular funds to pay for those expenses.
This is where workers’ compensation comes into play.
Workers’ compensation was developed to protect injured workers and to ensure they don’t become financially desolate. Every employer is required to have coverage and claims are supposed to be “no-fault”, meaning that even if the employee’s actions contributed to the accident, they should still receive payments.
Yet every year, around half of all workers’ compensation claims are denied. Insurance companies, whose job it is to pay claims, are more concerned with making money than paying out. All it takes is a simple, common mistake on a claim form and someone who desperately needs coverage will find their claim denied. Sadly, employers don’t often care to help because there are no consequence for them, since a workers’ comp claim prevents the employee from filing a lawsuit against them.
Once a claim has been denied, often the only way to obtain coverage is to work with an experienced attorney.
First, the claim may need to be reviewed by a judge during a hearing who will determine if the applicant is eligible for benefits. During the hearing, medical records may be reviewed, testimony may be given, and other evidence presented. If, at the end of the hearing, the claim is still denied, the decision can still be appealed.
This appeal must be filed within 30 days and will go through the Court of Appeals.
During this entire process, an attorney can help and is often the best way to obtain coverage.
What Happens In Cases Where The Worker Died?
In the unfortunate cases where the worker dies from their work-related injuries, death benefits for their surviving loved ones. This typically includes surviving spouses, children, and other dependent family members.
The death benefits will provide these loved ones with a weekly payment that is meant to replace the deceased worker’s salary, ensuring that their family won’t suffer financially while they recover from their loss.
What If I Am Permanently Disabled?
Workers’ compensation will only cover an injured worker for a specific period of time. If the injury they sustained leaves them permanently disabled, they may be able to file a second claim for Social Security Disability.
Just like workers’ compensation, the path to obtaining assistance through this form of claim can be a long and difficult one. Every year, nearly 65% of all SSD claims are denied. Although the denial can be appealed, there is a serious backlog and appeals may not move forward for at least 17 months.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible For SSD Benefits?
There are three things that are taken into account when determining if an applicant is available for coverage.
- Time: A worker must have worked enough to be eligible. Generally, this means at least five of the past ten years the applicant should have been employed.
- Injury: The injury they sustained must be serious enough that the applicant is unable to return to work.
- Proof: A doctor will have to give a report and medical evidence showing that their physical condition prevents them from going back to work.
Can A Lawyer Really Help?
Absolutely. When filing any claim we can assist you by:
- Helping you find a doctor.
- Notifying your employer about the accident in writing, as is required by law.
- Obtaining the doctor’s initial report.
- Filling out the necessary claim forms.
- Communicating with insurance companies.
Our firm has been assisting injured workers since 1933 and our team is ready to help you.