Can You Claim a Work-related Injury If You Breach Your Employer's Safety Policies?

Workers Comp claims are on the rise, as injuries in the work place are commonplace and most companies will have carriers set up to handle these cases. Work-related injuries are also more prevalent as motion injuries like carpel tunnel injuries can be classified as job related. Most companies will have no problem with how they handle on-the-job injuries and, in most cases, will have information about how to fill out "first report of injury" forms in an easy access area, like an employee break room.

What constitutes a work-related injury? Under current regulations, an injury sustained by an individual in any of the following four situations will be classified as a work-related injury:

1. Any injury in the workplace during normal working hours that neither the employer nor social authority can prove was not work related.

2. Any injury during an activity organized by the employer or an entity the employee has been assigned to by their employer. This will include activity on business trips such as work, study and work-related entertaining. However, if the activity is not related to work, even while on a business trip, the employer will not be liable.

3. Any injury during working hours whilst travelling within a reasonable area to cover different workplaces relevant to the employee's duties.

4. Any other injury during working hours which is due to causes related to performing work duties within a reasonable area of the workplace.

But, what if an employee breaches the employer's safety policies and is injured as a result; will his/her injury be treated as a work-related injury? In most cases, this is still classified as a work-related injury and a claim can be made. Proper reporting has to happen; notifying the Workers Comp carrier and then compensation can be made in the form of paying medical bills or lost wages.

There are exceptions, however, that may negate a claim as work-related. If the employee's injury or death arises from his/her:

  • Committing a crime or breach of any public security management rules
  • Being drunk
  • Committing suicide or self-mutilation

Further complicating the issue is that the employer can take disciplinary action against an employee for breach of the safety policies which leads to his/her injury. However, the employer probably can't dismiss the employee as a disciplinary matter for his/her breach resulting in his/her injury or for making a Worker's Comp claim. Worker's Comp laws hold that once you are able to return to work, you must be returned to your same job with the same pay. If you are able to work but cannot meet the requirements of your old job, Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits (SJDB) are available. SJDB comes in the form of a non-transferable voucher that can be used to pay for educational retraining or skill enhancement, or both, at state-approved or state-accredited schools. If you are unable to do any kind of work, however, you will have to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Workers Comp is not a blanket "get out of jail free" card. Your employer can dismiss you if it feels your injury is serious and can list you as "permanently disabled". In that case, you may have to prove your level of disability for continued benefits.

Information from a Blog for Mayer Brown LLP, "PRC labour law - bitesize: if an employee breaches the employer's safety policies and is injured as a result, will his/her injury be treated as a work-related injury?"and Blog for Eversheds LLP, "Work related injury claims: new guidance and clarification"

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