There are certain aspects of any job that can’t be controlled. For example, anyone who works outdoors is subject to the elements. At the same time, however, there are practical precautions that can be taken to prevent weather-related injuries on the job. A recent lightning-strike accident on a Colorado farm has some observers asking: Was enough done to protect the workers?
According to reports, a crew of workers was harvesting rhubarb on an organic farm when a thunderstorm moved in. Even though workers in another nearby field were brought into shelter as the storm approached, this particular crew remained at work. Unfortunately, nine workers were struck by lightning, and two were critically injured.
Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are apparently investigating the workplace accident. They will work to determine whether or not the employer should have done more to prevent the work injuries. Depending on the results of the inquiry, the company responsible for the farm workers might be fined.
Under state law, most Colorado employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This safeguard is designed to provide financial support to workers who are injured during the normal course of employment, so benefit claims may be necessary in this case.
On the other hand, workers’ compensation benefits may not be sufficient to cover the full extent of the damage caused by the lightning strike. In some scenarios, it’s possible for employees to pursue a third-party claim for additional support. It seems as though a couple of different companies had ties to the farm where the injuries occurred. Specifically, the land was owned by one party and being leased to another party.
Workers’ compensation law is known to be very complex, so it may be best to consult with an attorney to see what options are available in the event of an on-the-job injury.
Source: TheDenverChannel.com, “OSHA investigating after lightning strike injured farm workers in Wellington,” Jaclyn Allen and Phil Tenser, July 19, 2013