Most people have seen the “X days since last workplace accident” signs at some point in their life. The larger the number of days the better it is for employers and employees. Spokane Purina Mill will have a very small number after an accident on October 5. The Spokesman-Review reported on the recent unfortunate workplace accident in Spokane. A 29 year old man was working above the grain mill on a catwalk at the Spokane Purina Mill when his leg somehow got caught in a piece of steel machinery. Emergency crews had to make a rooftop rescue. After considerable effort to remove his leg from the machine the emergency crew decided that it was not going to be possible. The lower portion of the man’s leg was surgically removed onsite before he was airlifted to the hospital. According to the report’s latest update the man was in intensive care but doing well.
As we have discussed in a previous post, workplace safety is covered by Washington’s
Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA). It is also covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on a federal level. Under both the federal and state health and safety laws, employers are required to provide a safe workplace that is free from known dangers. These requirements cover everything from posting required safety posters to safety training programs to easily accessible first aid and trained onsite medical personnel and even to proper lighting. In Washington, the state’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health conducts investigations and enforces workplace safety requirements because of an agreement with the federal OSHA. This agreement worked in the Purina Mill’s man’s favor during the government shutdown since the circumstances of his accident were quickly under investigation and not on hold due to furlough.
Workers’ Compensation and Disability Benefits
The first thing that comes to mind when a person is injured in a workplace accident is workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is provided by employers either through the employer’s insurance or through the Department of Labor and Industries. It covers medical costs and some of the lost wages due to the workplace injury. It is good to note that workplace injuries do not have to be as severe as a partially severed leg, but can be something like job related carpal tunnel.
Beyond workers’ compensation, most employers who offer health insurance benefits to their employees also offer short-term and/or long-term disability benefits that can help cover expenses after a severe illness or injury that was not workplace related. These benefits are very similar to workers’ compensation in that they help cover medical costs and can provide a portion of an employee’s lost wages. Neither workers’ compensation nor disability benefits will cover all of an employee’s lost wages. Both have some additional limitations, but both are beneficial to the ill or injured employee.
If you have questions about workplace safety guidelines or disability benefits HKM employment attorneys can be of assistance.