Employers Have a Duty to Provide "Personal Protective Equipment" (PPE):
There are many workplaces in which employees must wear special protective equipment to prevent injuries. In such environments, employers have a duty to provide protective gear, as part of a larger duty to provide their employees with a safe workplace. However, some employers think this is an unnecessary, costly expense. If someone's injured while on the clock because of a lack of protective gear and their workplace is a non-subscriber to workers' compensation coverage, that employee may be able to seek recompense for their injury by filing a lawsuit.
When an employer fails in a duty to an employee, this failure creates grounds for legal action. What must be proved to show an employer was responsible and should pay compensation is known as a "theory of liability." In essence, a "theory of liability" answers the question, "On what grounds should someone bear liability?," or more simply, "Why is the accident something they should have to pay for?" In the case that involves an employer who failed to provide Personal Protective Equipment, the theory of liability is that the employer owes a duty to provide such equipment and since their failure to provide PPE caused the injuries, the employer is responsible for any damages that result from their negligence.
In this article, Texas work injury lawyer Michael Grossman discusses what an employer's obligations are to their workers, all the types of PPE an employee might use, and what you can do if you're injured because of the lack of PPE.
Questions answered on this page:
- What obligations do employers have to provide safety equipment?
- What are some of the common types of safety equipment are employers required to provide?
- How does a lack of safety equipment affect a worker's ability to pursue a work injury lawsuit?
- How can an experienced work injury attorney help with your non-subscriber lawsuit?
Employer's Job Site Obligations
Not only is providing safety equipment the right thing to do, but also, it's the legal thing to do. The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that is responsible for ensuring that employees are kept safe if they work under hazardous conditions, and therefore, it requires employers to provide--and employees to use--personal protective equipment (PPE) under certain circumstances. Obviously, the type of the occupation that the worker is in determines what type of PPE is required. Just know that, regardless of whatever dangerous job it is, if PPE is necessary, then it should be provided and worn.
Employers and employees alike should ensure that there is a safe work environment in place. However, there are certain obligations that are specifically imposed on employers.
- They are responsible for performing 'hazard assessments' of the work environments to evaluate any potential dangers to employees.
- Secondly, they must identify what the necessary PPE is for their employees and make sure it is provided and in good condition.
- They then have to train their employees on how to use the equipment correctly.
- The maintenance of the protective equipment is also their responsibility and they must replace any damaged or worn-out equipment.
- Lastly, they should continuously review and update their PPE program to make sure that it is running effectively and providing the protections it was intended to.
Although these seem pretty straightforward--we still see employers try to skirt the rules--and unfortunately, the cost of their indifference is borne by their injured employees.
Types of Personal Protective Equipment
What follows is an overview of common types of safety equipment employers are required to provide in dangerous work environments:
- Eye and Face Protection
In certain occupations, there are many hazards that can present serious dangers to the face and the eyes. If a work environment exposes employees to chemical substances, acids, or flying particles, then they should have protection provided for their eyes and face. Common injuries that occur to this part of the body in the workplace are actually caused by improper eye protection that fails to guard the employee from these hazards. Consequentially, the employer must make sure that the protective face and eye equipment fits each worker properly and will protect him or her from these dangers.
- The common types of eye and face protection that are used include goggles, face shields, welding shields, laser safety goggles and safety spectacles.
- Ear Protection
When an employer is evaluating what types of hearing protection to provide to their employees, OSHA has a list of factors that may guide them in the right direction. They need to consider how long the employees are around workplace noise and the loudness of it. They also must look to whether or not the employees are moving between different work areas that have different noise levels and whether the noise is generated from a single source or a number of different sources.
- The common types of ear protection that are used are earmuffs, pre-formed or molded earplugs and single-use earplugs.
- Foot and Leg Protection
If employees work at a job site that exposes them to possible foot and leg hazards then they should be required to wear protective footwear. These jobs may include ones in which an employee works with heavy objects that may roll onto the feet, works with sharp objects that could penetrate through the soles or tops of shoes, works with poisonous materials or really any dangerous substance that could injure any exposed body part.
- Some examples of foot and leg protection are toe guards, safety shoes, combination foot and shin guards, and leggings.
- Body Protection
Additional equipment should be work if there are inherent dangers of bodily injury associated with a certain profession that cannot be eliminated. Examples would be if you were exposed to temperature extremes or hazardous chemicals.
- There are certain types of fabric that can protect from these dangers such as treated wool and cotton, leather, dock, paper-like fiber, and rubberized fabrics.
- Head Protection
Last but not least, protecting employees from suffering head injuries is incredibly important. This is because head injuries typically result in life-long injuries or even death. Hard hats are the most common type of personal protective equipment because there are a number of jobs that involve potential head injuries. Some of these jobs would be carpenters, plumbers, welders, electricians, and many more.
- There are several different types of hard hats, all of which provide excellent protections to ensure that employees do not suffer one of these traumatic accidents.
Workers' Comp Status Matters When It Comes To Your Recovery
Under Texas law if your employer subscribes to workers compensation you are barred from suing them for their negligence. So in these types of jobs that require personal protective equipment, if they fail to provide you with PPE, you cannot sue them for the injury. You may only recover against them under worker's compensation, in the form of benefits.
Conversely, if they are a non-subscriber (an employer who has chosen not to opt into state-run worker's compensation), should the failure to provide adequate safety equipment result in an injury, this failure to perform a basic legal duty provides excellent grounds for an injured worker to pursue a lawsuit against their negligent employer. While this does not guarantee that an employer will pay compensation willingly, such circumstances, coupled with a strong legal team, makes recovering compensation much more likely.
Your Employer's Negligence Shouldn't Go Unpunished
The tragic side of employers who refuse to provide adequate PPE is that most of the work injuries that result are preventable and the cost of prevention is paltry compared to the costs inflicted on injured workers by accidents. We can't understand why some employers want to gamble with their employees health just to save a few bucks, but sadly, all too many continue to do so. In turn, employees pay the price: work injuries can be both physically and financially crippling, especially in the event that you are not able to return to work and now suffer lost wages.
The attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have been representing injured workers all over the state of Texas in their work injury lawsuits for the past quarter century. We can guarantee you that we will work diligently on your case so that you are capable of receiving the maximum recovery allowable under the law.
To discuss your lawsuit in greater detail and receive a free consultation contact Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000. We answer the phone any time of day or night.
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