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Injured NJ Employees May Sue Employers For An Intentional Wrong

Though workers generally cannot sue their employers for injuries sustained while at work due to the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, there is an exception to the rule called the “intentional wrong” exception.  Workers can sue their employers when the employers commit an intentional wrong, which is when the employer knows that the consequences of their actions are substantially certain to result in harm.

Related Workplace Accident Article: New Jersey Employees & Workers Injured On The Job Can Sue Employers For Willful Violations

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently fined a New Jersey steel framing company for failure-to-abate violations, and there certainly seems to be a strong argument that the company may be sued by its workers if any of them were seriously injured as a result of the violations. *Source: www.osha.gov

Last week, OSHA fined Jersey Shore Steel for 4 violations, including 3 failure-to-abate citations found upon reinspection, which were hazards or practices that the employer was originally cited for and failed to correct.  The company’s Jackson facility was first cited by OSHA in June 2012 for the following 3 violations:

  • failure to develop and implement written lockout/tagout programs for the safety of the employees;
  • failure to require performance evaluations for forklift truck operators at least once every 3 years; and
  • failure to train workers to use fire extinguishers.

When OSHA inspected the Jackson facility again in April 2013, 10 months after the original inspection, the NJ steel company still did not correct the above 3 violations. 

The Importance of Lockout/Tagout Procedures

All 3 violations expose workers to hazards that can cause injuries.  The failure to have a lockout/tagout program is particularly dangerous and can lead to serious and fatal injuries.  If lockout/tagout procedures do not exist, employees performing service or maintenance on the machines can be seriously injured when the machines unexpectedly startup because of stored energy.  Therefore, lockout/tagout programs must be in place to ensure the safety of employees.

Pursuant to OHSA Regulation 1910.147(c)(1), an energy control program must be in place.  The regulation provides:

The employer shall establish a program consisting of energy control procedures, employee training and periodic inspections to ensure that before any employee performs any servicing or maintenance on a machine or equipment where the unexpected energizing, startup or release of stored energy could occur and cause injury, the machine or equipment shall be isolated from the energy source and rendered inoperative.

Can A NJ Employer Be Sued For A Workplace Accident?

If Jersey Shore Steel’s machine operators and workers suffered crush injuries to their hands while servicing a machine because the company failed to implement lockout/tagout procedures, there is a strong argument that the steel company may be sued by the injured workers.

It certainly can be argued that the steel company committed an intentional wrong for the following reasons:

  • the company was cited by OSHA for failing to provide lockout/tagout procedures;
  • the company had 10 months to fix the situation but failed to do so;
  • the company continued to expose its workers to dangers and knew that continuing to do so was substantially certain to result in harm to the workers.

Related Industrial Machinery Accident Legal Articles:

Help After A NJ Workplace Accident

The construction and industrial machinery accident lawyers at White and Williams have helped many injured workers in New Jersey.  If you were injured at work, you may have a claim against another party in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.  Call today for a free initial consultation @ 877.944.8396.

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