A few months ago, I wrote an article asking if a boss who intentionally puts workers in danger should face criminal prosecution. You can read my article titled, When The Boss Tries To Kill His Workers! Remember, I’m not talking about negligent injuries. I’m only talking about intentional misconduct.
Now, our firm does not handle criminal cases. We only handle Alabama cases involving serious personal injury. Many of those cases are workers’ compensation claims. Over the years, I’ve seen a tremendous number of accidents and injuries that could have been prevented with a little safety planning from the company.
While most injury cases involve someone who caused an injury by acting negligently or recklessly, a small few involve terrible situations where someone purposely and intentionally chooses to put another person in danger. In the workplace, we should be able to trust our employers to, at least, try and keep us safe!
My prior article discusses a deadly trench collapse. That trench collapse goes far beyond negligence. What happened? You can read a more detailed version in my prior post. I’ll give you the short version. A construction company suffered a partial trench collapse. Rather than take any safety measures, the boss forced his workers back into the partially collapsed trench. The trench then caved-in, killing a worker. That boss intentionally put his workers into a known and likely life-threatening danger.
Now, al.com is reporting about a new Alabama case involving an employer who also intentionally put its workers into a situation knowing a terrible injury or death would likely result. The al.com article is titled, Alabama company charged in 2017 worker death that led to $3 million lawsuit. What happened in the Alabama case? An employee caught her hand in a machine’s large spinning rollers. Later, investigators learned the company intentionally chose to operate the dangerous machine with the rollers unprotected and no safety switch to stop the line. And, the company made this intentional choice despite several prior worker injuries.
We should all be able to trust that our bosses are making an effort to keep us safe. Our family and neighbors who go to work each day deserve to know the company tried to keep them safe. I write a lot about injured workers in Alabama. But, it’s an issue of fairness for companies as well. Companies trying to keep a safe worksite deserve a fair playing field. They don’t get a fair playing field if a few companies are allowed to operate at full speed with zero safety precautions.
What can be done to prevent some companies from intentionally choosing to put workers in danger? At a state level (here in Alabama), we could actually develop some safety standards and enforcement. By some, I mean any. At a state level, we totally fail to protect our workers. In addition to developing safety standards in our state, we should amend our workers’ compensation laws to penalize companies who intentionally choose otherwise. Our work comp laws are completely one-sided. A worker who intentionally ignores safety rules or safety equipment can be barred from receiving benefits. But, a company that intentionally ignores safety rules or safety equipment faces no penalties. Some states have amended their work comp laws on this issue. Alabama has not. Finally, on a Federal level, OSHA needs more manpower to perform its work. We need regular safety inspections and enforcement to protect our most valuable asset — our working men and women.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm helps injured workers across Alabama. If you have questions about a personal injury, accident or workers’ compensation issue, let us know. Our consultations are always free and confidential.