Unusual stress triggered worker’s ankle injury

by on March 24, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Based on the facts presented below, how do you think the courts ruled?

Haste makes waste, especially when it comes to workers getting hurt because they’re in a hurry.

Supervisor Vivian Lewis rounded a corner and saw machine operator Karl Schlemann standing bent over with his hands on his knees, panting.

“What on earth?” she said.

“I heard the alarm go off,” he said. “The one that’s supposed to trigger if the machine overheats. I was in the break room, so I hauled rear end to get back here and check. I sprinted, actually.”

A false alarm
“Was anything wrong with the machine?” she asked.

“No,” Karl said. “The alarm must have malfunctioned.”

“Well, you did the right thing to hustle back,” Vivian said. “Thanks for your vigilance. I’ll call maintenance and see what’s up with the alarm.”

“I don’t know if it was the right thing or not,” Karl said, bending over now to gingerly touch his left foot. “I felt something give in my ankle here. It’s tender and I think it’s swelling up.”

“Can you walk?” Vivian asked.

Karl took a few steps, wincing. “Not easily,” he said.

“You’d better have it looked at, then,” Vivian said.

As it turned out, Karl had badly sprained his ankle. So badly, in fact, that the swelling caused cracks in his skin that then became infected. After the infection healed, he tried to return to work. But the amount of standing he had to do made his ankle swell up again, and his doctor said he could no longer do the job at all.

Karl filed a workers comp claim. Did he get compensation?

The decision
Yes. The state workers compensation court said his ankle injury was a result of his work, and was compensable. The company had to pay him $450 a week until he was able to find another job.

Anytime workers put unusual stress on their bodies, they’re vulnerable to injury. This can happen, for example, when people try to lift weights to which they’re unaccustomed, carry out a task in a hurry, or react to an emergency.

To avoid these kinds of injuries, supervisors should:

  • periodically remind workers to pace themselves and get help when necessary, and
  • drill them on safe emergency response.

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