Feb 24

What Happens to Work Comp Benefits if the Employee is Not Wearing the Issued Safety Equipment?

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What happens if an employee isn’t wearing eye goggles and sustains a work comp eye injury? What about an employee not wearing a seatbelt who gets in a car accident while within the scope of her employment? Or the Home Depot worker not wearing the back brace provided by the employer? What about a police officer who doesn’t wear his bullet proof vest and gets shot? What does the Florida workers’ compensation law say about these situations?

Florida law states workers’ compensation benefits can be reduced by 25% if the employee refused to use a safety appliance or follow a safety rule. Florida Statute 440.09(5) states that “if injury is caused by the knowing refusal of the employee to use a safety appliance or observe a safety rule required by statute or lawfully adopted by the department, and brought prior to the accident to the employee’s knowledge, or if injury is caused by the knowing refusal of the employee to use a safety appliance provided by the employer, the compensation as provided in this chapter shall be reduced 25 percent.”

The statute seems clear, but it is not. What is a “knowing refusal”? What about violation of employer-imposed safety rules–do violation of them result in a reductions of benefits? How about violation of an OSHA rule? What about speeding or careless driving–does that result in a reduction of Florida workers’ compensation benefits if an employee gets injured in a work-related car accident? What if the employer orders an employee to use a safety device but does not enforce the order or rule? Can the workers’ compensation carrier reduce benefits then?

Every case is different and that is why it is important that you talk with an attorney who understands Florida workers’ compensation law before you accept the workers’ compensation carrier’s position on any reduction of benefits. For those who are wondering, it is my position that Officer Crawford’s family benefits should NOT be reduced despite not wearing his vest because the City did not require or enforce the use of wearing it. As all of us do, my thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Crawford’s family and friends. My best friend is in law enforcement, and I would be devastated if anything happened to him.

Workers’ Compensation Attorney Matthew Noyes has been fighting for his client’s work comp benefits for nearly 20 years. Click here for a free case consultation about your Florida workers’ comp claim. Attorney Noyes’ Tampa Bay law firm–Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes–has been caring for clients since 1955. Benefit from their experience.

  1. Webber 5 Mar 2011 | reply

    Always shoot for honesty, transparency, and fairness with your customers, employees, and vendors. This can be achieved by following the best construction safety norms by everyone those are involved with the project.

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