Outside workers in Ohio and the rest of country should always be mindful that severe weather can be fatal. While it is necessary that everyone who is in an area with inclement weather to take precautions, those who work outside have to take even more care to remain safe.
One example of why employers should take heed of the weather when it concerns their employees is the collapse of a crowded circus tent in New Hampshire during a severe thunderstorm in August 2015. There had been repeated warnings from the National Weather Service regarding the presence of severe storms in the area. Despite the warnings, the company putting on the event elected to continue with a schedule circus performance outdoors. As a result of the tent collapse, the lives of workers and spectators were jeopardized, numerous individuals were injured and a young child and her parent were killed.
Another example involves a United States Postal Service employee who collapsed while on his mail route in July 2013. The weather was humid and had a heat index of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the coworkers of the employee, letter carriers were not given any training by the local USPS branch to avoid and identify the symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to each of the incidences by issuing citations for the violation of the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The act requires that employers are to respond to any identifiable hazards that could potentially harm or kill their employees.
While workers’ compensation death benefits might be available to the family of a person who was killed on the job, there might be an alternative possibility of bringing a wrongful death action if the decedent’s employer was grossly negligent or reckless regarding workplace safety protocols. The surviving family members may want to meet with an attorney to see if such a lawsuit would be viable.