Winter and Workers’ Compensation
When ice, snow, sleet, and hail hit North Carolina, they hit hard. Just last month, conditions were so perilous that the North Carolina Governor issued a press release reminding North Carolinians of the many dangers of winter weather and urging them to stay home. Such information is helpful for the general public, but weather conditions pose special dangers to North Carolina workers, because many workers have no choice. Like it or not, they must battle dangerous conditions to keep their job.
Winter workplace hazards
Employees working during wintry weather encounter a variety of risks:
- Icy roads and increased risk of collisions
- Burns from charcoal grills or propane stoves
- Slick entryways and exits from workplaces
- Exertion, injuries, or heart attacks due to snow shoveling
- Carbon monoxide fumes
- Increased risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite
- Fires and smoke inhalation due to improper use of heaters
Depending on the type of work and environment, OSHA safety regulations require employers to provide safe conditions to workers, including limitations on time spent in frigid temperatures, access to safe and warm workplaces, clean and safe entryways and parking lots, insulated uniforms, and adequate breaks. Sometimes employers follow these rules, and sometimes…well, they just don’t.
No-fault workers’ compensation
When a worker gets hurt due to winter weather, whose fault is it? Mother Nature? The other driver? The boss? The property manager? The worker himself? Doesn’t matter! For workers’ compensation, fault does not matter. An injured worker may collect benefits no matter who is at fault. That means benefits may be paid when nobody did anything wrong, or even when the worker herself did something risky or careless. The attorneys at Ricci Law Firm regularly help injured workers who have fallen victim to winter-weather-related accidents – even when the employer is not at fault.
What is covered?
Generally, workers’ compensation does not cover an injury occurring on the way to and from work. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, as the workers’ compensation attorneys at Ricci Law Firm know well. For example, if a worker is required to drive to and from job sites as part of his job, then an accident – even one caused by ice or snow – probably is covered under workers’ compensation. This is true even when the worker uses her own vehicle. An accident on the way to or from is covered:
- If Joe drives from the plant to the storage unit.
- If Debbie runs to the bank to deposit money after her shift ends.
- If Mark heads to the office supply store.
- If Sherry travels to a home-bound nursing care client.
You get the gist. And travel injuries are not the only winter workplace injuries. For example, if a worker slips and falls on ice in an area owned or controlled by the employer, then workers’ compensation benefits may be available, depending on the case. And what about workers who shovel snow, scrape ice, or otherwise tackle the effects of winter storms? Injuries occurring while performing that work constitute a “deviation from the normal work routine,” and may be covered under workers’ compensation.
Winter weather is dangerous to the public and especially dangerous to North Carolina workers. If you or a loved one has been injured due to winter weather conditions while working, please contact Ricci Law Firm.