Pennsylvania Attorney for Deaths Caused by COVID 19 (Coronavirus) Workplace Negligence
As states and businesses across the country prepare to begin opening up, there remains a concern about safety in the workplace. Employers are tasked with creating a work environment that is not only profitable but safe for their employees. When a business purposefully ignores taking precautions to lessen the spread of infection, the risk of their employees contracting COVID-19 increases.
Every employee in Pennsylvania should expect their employers to provide a safe work environment. When businesses fail to do so, they could be held responsible for injuries or deaths that occur. The coronavirus is a potentially fatal hazard that could exist in the workplace. If your family member or loved one died from complications of COVID-19 contracted through their job, contact our Pennsylvania attorney for deaths caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus) workplace negligence. Call the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 for a free, confidential consultation to review your options.
Safety Standards and Requirements in Pennsylvania Businesses During COVID-19
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) publishes safety standards and regulations that the majority of Pennsylvania companies must follow. When safety violations occur, employees are afforded several legal remedies.
Because of the uncertainty and risks caused by the coronavirus, OSHA has quickly issued guidelines and recommendations for employers regarding both worker safety and infection mitigation. While general OSHA standards are legally enforceable, the current recommendations lack similar authority. Any worker who suffered an injury or died due to COVID-19 faces additional legal challenges because of this lack of enforcement.
Pennsylvania Employers and OSHA’s “General Duty Clause”
OSHA has developed many safety standards to help ensure the safety of workers throughout the country. However, it is impossible to envision or create a regulation for every possible situation. To cover areas where standards are lacking or not fully developed, OSHA has the “General Duty Clause,” or 29 U.S.C. Section 654, 5(a)1. This provision requires businesses to maintain workplaces that are free from any recognized hazard that could result in death or severe bodily harm.
Violations of the “General Duty Clause” by Companies in Pennsylvania
An employer’s negligent conduct or inaction could constitute a violation of OSHA 29 U.S.C. Section 654, 5(a)1. To prove a violation, our Pennsylvania attorney will have to demonstrate four factors.
- There must be an actual hazard in the workplace
- The hazard was known and recognized as a significant risk
- There is a likelihood that the hazard will cause death or serious physical harm
- There are reasonable actions that would mitigate or eliminate the hazard
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized the coronavirus as a known hazard and potentially deadly effects of COVID-19 are well documented. However, proving that the hazard existed in the workplace is challenging. If another employee was infected, then it is likely that your loved one contracted the infection from them. However, the pervasiveness of the virus could constitute a known risk.
The lynchpin in determining a violation could rest with your employer’s conduct or inaction. While OSHA’s guidelines and recommendations lack the enforceability of previous safety standards, they do provide our attorneys with a framework to analyze the measures your employer took to limit the risk of infection in the workplace. Some conduct that could constitute violations under the “General Duty Clause” include the following.
- Failing to provide employees adequate training or information regarding the risk of infection in the work environment.
- Failing to implement procedures for infected employees.
- Allowing employees to work within six feet of each other when it was possible to configure the workspace to allow social distancing.
- Not providing adequate wash stations throughout the work environment, or not stocking the stations that exist.
- Failing to provide safety equipment such as gloves or masks to employees. Especially those employees that work directly with the public.
- Not regularly cleaning or disinfecting the workplace.
Proving Negligence for COVID-19 Deaths in Pennsylvania Workplaces.
To prove negligence in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, our experienced Pennsylvania attorney will have to demonstrate four elements; that the employer owed a duty to their employees, that the employer breached that duty, that the breach caused the injury or death, and that there were actual damages or harm.
The “General Duty Clause” establishes a legal duty to keep the work environment free of recognized hazards. The next legal question is, did the employer’s conduct constitute a breach of that duty. Because of the uncertainty of liability law surrounding the pandemic, this is not an easy answer. One of the first wrongful death lawsuits was recently filed. The complaint alleges that the employer “willfully and wantonly” failed to provide employees adequate safety equipment, did not clean and disinfect the work environment, and purposefully minimized the risk the employees faced.
The attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm have over forty years of experience handling complex work injury and death claims. We are thoroughly analyzing current case law and every recent development regarding wrongful death litigation related to COVID-19. By using the OSHA recommendations, the provisions of the “General Duty Clause,” and well-founded negligence principals, we believe a robust legal argument could be made to hold employers responsible for coronavirus related deaths in the workplace.
Call Our Pennsylvania Attorney for Deaths Caused by COVID 19 (Coronavirus) Workplace Negligence for a Free Consultation
Every employee working in Pennsylvania deserves a safe workplace. While it is impossible to eliminate every hazard or entirely prevent a coronavirus infection, there are clear and reasonable steps every business should take to minimize the risk to its employees. If those steps were purposefully neglected and your loved one died due because of the coronavirus contracted in the workplace, contact our Pennsylvania attorney for deaths caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus) workplace negligence. Call the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.