In 2018, 23-year-old Shacarra Hogue was crushed to death by a machine that had been altered to remove vital safety features. She had been using the machine weeks before her mandatory training period was over. Though her employer was cited $17,000 by IOSHA, they only paid $6,300.
Before 2019, the financial repercussions for Indiana companies who violate safety standards were shockingly low. Worker deaths caused by employer negligence could result in a fine of $7,000 per violation, or a total of $70,000. But employers usually end up paying much less—like the negligent employer who only paid $2,400 after an employee fell to his death.
In addition, employers only have to cover $7,500 of funeral costs for a worker killed on the job. A funeral in Indiana can easily cost over $10,000 with fees, marker and burial plot costs. This can cause a heavy financial burden for the families of killed workers, who were already suffering the pain of losing a loved one.
New Worker Death Law
HB 1341, which was signed into law in April 2019 by Governor Holcomb, greatly increases the fines for employers that violate safety regulations causing on-the-job deaths. Under the new law, employers could be fined over $132,000 per safety violation.
Common safety violations include:
- Not providing harnesses or lifelines to employees that may need fall protection
- Putting employees on machines before fully training them on their use
- Charging employees for safety equipment like respirators or safety goggles, or not providing them at all
- Removing safety guards on machinery
- Exposing employees to dangerous levels of hazardous materials, substances, or sound
If your employer continues to violate safety standards after being made aware of the problem, you should file a safety complaint with OSHA.
If your employer threatens to fire you or otherwise punish you for reporting the safety issue, you are completely within your rights to file a whisteblower complaint. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report safety issues.
Death Benefits Under New Law
A separate bill, HB 1182, would increase the amount of burial expenses covered by workers’ compensation. If an employee dies while on the job, their employer will cover burial costs up to $10,000. This includes employees who died from an illness brought about by their job, such as asbestosis caused by asbestos exposure.
The families of killed workers can also receive death benefits, or a portion of weekly wages, through workers’ compensation. If you wish to receive burial expenses or death benefits, you must notify the employer of the employee’s death within 30 days.
Help from a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
You have the right to a safe workplace environment. If a family member has died due to employer negligence, and that employer is refusing to grant your workers’ compensation claim, a work comp attorney can help. Please give Hensley Legal Group a call or contact us online for a free conversation about your workers’ compensation claim.