What Happens to Your Business If a Worker Dies on the Job?

Business owners want the best for their employees. Employees are the lifeline of a business, but accidents and unexpected deaths can happen. Deaths are scary for a business. Employees are impacted and business owners fear that their business will be held responsible for the employee’s death.

Worker’s Compensation Might Kick In

Worker’s compensation covers employee injuries, but depending on the policy, this same policy may provide death benefits to the deceased person’s family. California offers $10,000 in burial expenses and as much as $320,000 for families with three or more dependents.

Families may have a right to sue.

But a lawsuit will require misconduct or negligence on part of an employer or employees.

Penalties May Be Assessed

Businesses may be assessed penalties or fines for the death. OSHA will fine a business for a serious violation, but this number is negligent for most businesses: $5,733 in 2015. The Justice Department has made workplace safety violations a priority.

Workplace safety violations are serious, but in 2014, only 27 cases went through criminal prosecution. Criminal prosecution is rare as long as a business doesn’t knowingly put employees at risk. If a business is in violation of industry safety procedures and protocols, it’s possible that the business will be held responsible for the death.

“The number of workplace deaths among all workers decreased from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015, representing a 22 percent drop,” according to the Chicago Injury Lawyer site.

A decrease in deaths is primarily due to businesses putting a focus on workplace safety and security.

Negligence in the workplace, on part of the business and its owners, can result in a criminal lawsuit. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010 killed 11 workers, and the company pled guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter.

Businesses Must Act Quickly

Businesses will need to call emergency services and try to save the life of the employee. Fatalities in the workplace also require employers to notify OSHA of the incident within eight hours. Injuries that require amputation, eye loss or even in-patient hospitalization will require a report to be filed within 24 hours.

Family members should be called by a business representative. Businesses can also request that police officers, who will come to the scene, contact the family. Owners must be prepared for backlash and anger from the family. It’s not uncommon for emotions to flare up, resulting in the deceased family not taking kindly to the news.

But there are times when an employee may have a heart attack in the middle of a shift, fall to the floor and be unresponsive.

Employers are responsible for calling emergency services and getting the employee the help he or she needs. When a death occurs that is no fault of the business, the family may file a worker’s compensation claim, but the business will not be held liable for the death.

Insurance and proper workplace safety can shield a business from wrongful death claims, allowing the business to continue operating without suffering a major financial loss.

Adam Richards

About Adam Richards

Adam Richards is a semi-retired business professional originally from Bangor, Maine. He spent the majority of his career in sales and marketing where he rose to the marketing lead of a Fortune 1000 company. He then moved on to helping people as a career counselor that specifically helped bring families to self-sufficiency through finding them rewarding careers. He has now returned to Bangor for his retirement and spends his free time writing. This blog will be about everything he learned throughout his career. He'll write on career, workplace, education and technology issues as well as on trends, changes, and advice for the Maine job market and its employers.