The brief response is negative, at least by default. The “exclusivity rule” prohibits you from suing your employer for failing to provide PPE in most situations. However, you may be eligible for benefits under your employer’s workers’ compensation plan. Typically, if you suffer a workplace accident, it is your employer’s responsibility to compensate you for medical expenses and lost wages.
Who Is Responsible for Buying PPE?
If you undertake a physically hazardous task, you will likely be confronted with two crucial concerns:
- My employer must provide PPE, right?
- Who is responsible for paying for the required PPE?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States, employers are generally responsible for providing PPE at their own expense. If the employee provides their own protective equipment, the employer must reimburse them.
Perhaps the most common consequence of an employer’s failure to provide adequate PPE is construction accidents. The issue is that OSHA does not permit injured workers to file lawsuits regarding this issue; there is no “private right of action.” Instead, OSHA typically imposes its own penalties on businesses that do not comply with its regulations.
Employers in high-risk occupations have many safety responsibilities, including the provision of helmets, safety goggles, fireproofing, and so on. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, additional requirements apply. Your employer must:
- Properly sanitise the workplace; rearrange workplaces and schedules to encourage social distance;
- Provide masks and related PPE (such as hand sanitizer);
- Demanding that everyone, including customers, wear masks; Screening for symptoms; and Developing contingency plans (for a workplace outbreak, for example).
- There are numerous other requirements, such as allowing sick employees to remain at home.
Additionally, your employer must adhere to new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities.
Instances When You Can Sue Your Employer
As described below, there are several significant exceptions that may allow you to file a lawsuit for a work-related injury caused by inadequate PPE:
Typically, workers’ compensation benefits are pursued through administrative channels, not the courts. To file a workers’ compensation claim, however, you need your employer’s assistance. You can petition the courts for redress if your employer refuses to cooperate.
If your employer conceals your injuries dishonestly and they subsequently worsen, you can sue for compensation.
Workers’ compensation insurance safeguards employers from litigation-related distractions. If your employer refuses (illegally) to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, they forfeit the immunity from lawsuits they would otherwise enjoy.
You can sue your employer for intentional misconduct. Consider the scenario in which you organise union activity in the workplace. Your employer retaliates by denying you PPE on purpose, causing you to become ill or injured. You can sue your employer for damages in court.
If the worker is an independent contractor as opposed to an employee (for example, an electrician you hire to fix your wiring), you are almost always responsible for purchasing at least some PPE. To the extent that your employer is responsible for providing it, however, the courts are your only option.
If your failure to receive PPE is due to the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of a third party (other than your employer) and you are injured as a result, you may have a claim for personal injury against the third party. You would be required to establish fault in order to recover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
A construction project where your employer is a subcontractor and the general contractor is responsible for providing PPE due to its high cost is a classic example of this scenario.
Consult With a Workers’ Compensation/Personal Injury Lawyer
An attorney specialising in workers’ compensation and personal injury can evaluate your claim and advise you on your legal options. The most significant advantages of hiring an attorney are:
- Typically, they are in a better position than you to determine the true value of your claim, and they can negotiate a higher settlement than you probably could.
Nearly all workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys provide free, no-obligation consultations.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm
Contact Abrams Law Group for a free consultation if you’ve been hurt in an accident and require legal assistance.