We’ve previously mentioned on this blog that employers have the duty to furnish a safe place to work and to protect their health, safety and lives of their employees. Under the so-called Safe Place statute, which imposes this duty, employees who are injured as a result of their employer’s failure to provide a safe place to work are entitled to increased workers’ compensation benefits.
One issue that has been addressed in case law concerning the Safe Place statute is that the standard of fault in the statute is that of ordinary negligence. In any negligence case, it is up to the plaintiff to demonstrate: first, that the defendant had a duty of care toward the plaintiff; second, that the defendant breached that duty; third, that the plaintiff suffered harm; and fourth, that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
When a plaintiff is successful in proving that there was a violation of the Safe Place statute, the employer then has the burden of proving that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the employer’s violation. Courts do still take into account the plaintiff’s contributions to his or her own injuries, and the fact that there has been a violation of the statute does not mean that the employer’s negligence was necessarily greater than the employee’s negligence.
As we’ve previously mentioned, employees may have their workers’ compensation awards reduced when it is proven that the employee failed to follow a reasonable safety rule. An employee’s contributory negligence is less, though, when the safety violation occurs in the course of the performance of his or her job duties.
Navigating Safe Place issues in the litigation process is not necessarily an easy matter, and working with an experienced attorney is important to ensure an employee’s rights are protected.