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Illegal construction site raises questions about workers' comp

As an employee in the state of Colorado, you have the right to safe working conditions and any employer who fails to provide such an environment runs the risk of civil litigation as well as fines from the government. But what happens if your place of employment has a history of breaking the law? Would they even have workers’ compensation insurance? And would you be able to collect benefits if you were injured on the job?

These could be the most important questions being addressed in Pennsylvania this month as the city of Philadelphia tries to sort out the events leading up to the serious injury of a non-union contractor just days ago. The 35-year-old contractor was working on a roof when reports indicate that he came into contact with unprotected electric lines. This caused him to fall from the roof, fracturing his back in the process. He is currently in a medically induced coma while doctors stabilize his heart to prepare him for surgery.

Complicating things though is the fact that the construction company who had hired the 35-year-old man did not have proper building permits prior to the accident. According to a representative from the city, an initial inspection of the property would have revealed the electric line danger and the builder would have been told to cover the wires prior to letting any workers near the site. By failing to have the property inspected for potential safety hazards, the builder put his workers’ lives in danger, which could leave them open to liability.

Although the builder claims to have gotten permit approval this year, city records indicate that they were only paid for and made valid until after the man had been injured at work. According to the city, the construction site is illegal and has since shut it down. But this still leaves the question of whether the 35-year-old worker will be compensated for his injuries. Because of the builder’s blatant disregard for workplace safety, some of our readers might be wondering if they even have workers’ compensation insurance. If they do not, then the 35-year-old man might have to file a civil claim after recovering from his near fatal injuries.

Source: Philly.com, "PhillyDeals: Worker hurt at what city calls illegal construction site," Joseph N. DiStefano, Dec. 5, 2013

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