Pennsylvania Lawyer for Work Injury Caused by the Coronavirus Due to Unsafe Work Conditions
To mitigate the spread of infections and to minimize Pennsylvanian’s exposure to COVID-19, the commonwealth is under a “stay-at-home” order. Many businesses from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh are temporarily closed or have made arrangements for their employees to work remotely. However, essential industries, including pharmacies, grocery stores, hospitals, and other companies offering necessary services, remain open. Essential employees face an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Pennsylvania employers should take necessary precautions and institute policies to limit their workers’ exposure to the virus. Failing to take reasonable steps could endanger employees. Unfortunately, liability law is unclear when COVID-19 is involved. If you have contracted the virus due to your employer’s failure to mitigate your risk of infection, you need our skilled Pennsylvania lawyer for work injuries caused by the coronavirus due to unsafe work conditions. Call the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 for a free and confidential consultation.
Pennsylvania Employer’s Duty During the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Occupational Safety and Health Act
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is a government agency tasked with ensuring that workers in the United States are provided with safe and healthy working conditions. This is accomplished by setting nationwide safety standards, training, and outreach. While COVID-19 adversely affects businesses throughout the nation, OSHA has issued guidelines and directions for employers to follow.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus spread quickly. Therefore, OSHA was required to issue prompt recommendations that lacked the full enforceability of their typical safety standards. While this presents a legal hurdle in establishing liability, the guidelines still present a framework to determine the reasonableness of an employer’s actions.
Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Act remains in effect, including the “general duty clause.” Under the clause, an employer must provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing harm or that are likely to cause death. Also, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission currently categorizes the coronavirus as a threat to employees’ health.
By combining the present guidelines and recommendations proffered by OSHA and a business’ duty under the “general duty clause,” our seasoned Pennsylvania work injury attorneys believe that employers should institute policies and protocols to avoid negligent conduct. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Employers must recognize the risks the coronavirus presents to their employees.
- Comprehensive plans for working under the threat of COVID-19 must be prepared and distributed to the employees.
- Businesses should ensure that the workplace is arranged to reduce the risk of infection. This includes instituting a regular schedule of cleaning and disinfecting, having an adequate number of wash stations available, and providing masks, gloves, and other necessary safety equipment to their employees.
- Management should train the workforce in recognizing the symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, there should be a plan for sick employees to follow to mitigate the risk of contact between infected workers.
- Social distancing is vital to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Employers should have systems in place to ensure their employees can complete their duties while maintaining a safe distance, if possible. This includes contact with the general public.
Holding Pennsylvania Businesses Liable for Employees Infected with the Coronavirus
The coronavirus is presenting liability attorneys with several legal questions regarding the rights of employees. Recently, a plaintiff in Illinois filed the first wrongful death lawsuit due to complications of COVID-19 in the workplace. The complaint alleged that the infection was the direct result of the employer’s “willful and wanton” conduct in ignoring the danger their employees faced. Because COVID-19 is a recognized hazard, purposefully ignoring recommended guidelines to mitigate the risk to their employees could be a violation of the “general duty clause” and give rise to a negligence claim. It is important to note that this is new legal ground, requiring the representation of our knowledgeable Pennsylvania work injury attorneys to navigate the complex issues involved.
Pennsylvania employers were given clear recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA to help minimize the threat of infection among their employees. Using the guidelines and the “general duty clause” as a framework to impose potential liability, we believe a business could open itself up to accountability for workplace infections for a variety of violations, including:
- Not providing their employees with training regarding the spread of the virus.
- Failing to implement a procedure to address infected employees or check employees for symptoms.
- Not allowing employees to practice social distancing while working.
- Failing to provide adequate wash stations or soap for their workers.
- Allowing employees to work without proper safety equipment such as gloves and masks.
- Failing to have a regular cleaning or disinfecting schedule in place.
The law concerning business liability during COVID-19 remains uncertain. However, if a Pennsylvania employer willfully ignores OSHA guidelines, they could be placing their employees in an unreasonably dangerous situation. If an employer purposefully maintains an unsafe work environment, it might be possible to hold that business accountable for any injuries or harm related to COVID-19. Our dedicated attorneys have been analyzing the present law and current changes in legal thought to better prosecute work-related injury cases directly linked to the coronavirus.
Call Our Pennsylvania Lawyer for Work Injury Caused by the Coronavirus Due to Unsafe Work Conditions for a Free Consultation
Our Pennsylvania lawyers for work injuries caused by the coronavirus due to unsafe work conditions have over three decades of experience in assisting workers injured on the job. The COVID-19 pandemic is raising many new legal questions and our skilled attorneys are ready to meet the challenge. If you or a loved one was contracted the coronavirus due to unsafe work conditions, call the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 to schedule a free consultation.