Employees of many companies can have numerous varied benefits. However,
a benefit that is consistent across employers is the ability to file for
workers' compensation benefits when
injured at work. At first glance, this sounds pretty straight forward. An individual is
injured at work and the company pays them money to help them recover.
In addition, companies are sometimes required to pay fines for poor safety
measures. However, as a family in Pennsylvania is finding out, that is
not always the case.
This family, a husband and wife, lost their 25-year-old son when he was
shot at work as a result of what OSHA would later call workplace violence.
The man worked at an Oakland mental health hospital. On March 8 of this
year, a mentally ill graduate student walked into the hospital and opened
fire with two guns. The 25-year-old man was killed and five others were wounded.
After a six month investigation following the incident, OSHA wrote the
man's parents a letter stating that the company would not be penalized
for the incident. OSHA's review of the facility and the incidents
that had occurred from 2007 to 2011 stated that there had been numerous
injuries to employees and that there should be an increase in efforts
to prevent these situations.
OSHA is often able to invoke the "general duty clause" which
is a regulation covering workplace safety issues. However, since OSHA
has no specific guidelines regarding workplace violence this situation
was not covered by that provision.
It is unknown whether the parents in this case tried to recover compensation
from the employer. However, in many cases, when an employee suffers from
a fatal injury the family is able to recover damages from the employer
to compensate them for medical bills, death expenses, lost wages and possibly
pain and suffering.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Officials suggest changes but no penalties at Western Psych," Jonathan D. Silver, Sept. 29, 2012