Not everyone makes it home from work.
For many of us, especially those of us in non-hazardous occupations, the thought of not making it home at the end of the day is unfathomable, but every day more than 14 families experience the unthinkable – their loved one never comes home from work.
In 1984, April 28th was established as Workers’ Memorial Day – the official day of mourning to pay homage to those that have died, been injured, or suffered from illness at their workplace. The Workplace Safety & Insurance Board launched a Day of Mourning microsite ahead of this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day to commemorate those that have lost their lives by simply going to work and to give a voice to their survivors.
“Superior Glove strives to protect as many workers as possible by creating the very best hand protection in the world.”
– Tony Geng, President of Superior Glove
At Superior Glove, we not only live-and-breathe safety – but it’s also our mission. We get up every day knowing that what we do helps ensure workers come home safely, but because of what we do we’re also well aware of the hazards lurking in workplaces.
A workplace accident can happen in an instant. It could be because of an unsafe environment or unsafe work practices. It could cause a minor inconvenience or change your life forever.
Nobody expects to get hurt – or worse – at work, which is why few people know what to do when it happens to them. However, the decisions you and your family make directly following a workplace accident can make a substantial difference in how much compensation you receive if you choose to pursue legal action.
Superior Glove spoke with two prominent labor law and personal injury lawyers about their experiences representing victims of workplace accidents and their families, as well as their advice for workers involved in workplace accidents.
Robert Fallarino of Pegalis Law Group has over twenty-five years of experience as a trial attorney and has some advice for workers, especially those in more hazardous occupations such as construction and oil and gas.
“Always make time for safety. It’s the one time you skip on safety or cut corners – that’s the time you get hurt.”
Fallarino shared with Superior Glove the story of one of his clients who suffered life-altering consequences from an accident on the job that regrettably could have been avoided if simple safety practices had been put in place.
“This man, because of one instant of one day at work, not only lost his professional career, but also changed his personal life forever.”
Marcus*, an electrician, had been called to a popular convention center to remove some electrical cables from the ceiling. Time was of the essence as the next show would be setting up imminently and the cables needed to be gone asap. As such, things like the fact that the scissor lift he was using was too lightweight to support the cables and that there was no safety harness in place, were overlooked. If someone had been focused on safety rather than how quickest to complete the job, perhaps the weight of the cables wouldn’t have toppled the scissor lift and Marcus wouldn’t have fallen several meters onto a hard, concrete floor; unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
For the next five months, Marcus was either in a hospital or a rehab center and even after his release he couldn’t go back to work as his injuries prevented him from performing electrical work. Most distressing, he had to give up his favorite activity – coaching the local soccer team.
Thankfully, Marcus’ legal action was successful and he was able to obtain enough compensation to ensure he could look after himself and his family.
“It may seem callous, but if you’ve been injured at work, the first thing you want to do is contact a lawyer,” advises Fallarino. “Many people aren’t aware of this, but sometimes there are legal time limits on when you can bring legal action, especially if the accident occurred in a municipal or government location. Additionally, the sooner your lawyer can interview those involved, the stronger your case will be as details become fuzzy and facts get lost the longer you wait to speak with people.”
Not all workplace injuries end in legal action, but Fallarino advises speaking to a lawyer as an insurance policy.
“Even if you believe the accident was your fault, it’s still beneficial to speak with a lawyer. Depending on the laws in your state, if it can be proved that your employer shares in some of the blame you can recoup those costs.”
Jeffery Robinette, a personal injury lawyer with Robinette Legal Group, points at engrained cultures of machoism in many professions as an impediment to safety.
“Many of the skyscrapers in New York were built without safety ropes. You had guys that were 100, 200, maybe even 300 feet off the ground with nothing but faith standing in between them and the pavement,” says Robinette.
“When you’re at work you have to be vigilant about your own safety – always be thinking about safety.”
He recounts the story of a young man who for no other reason than a misguided sense of adventure decided to scale some scaffolding at work. Unfortunately, he fell and did not survive. Not only did he lose his life, but his family was denied any compensation in court because the young man had been found to be 100% responsible for the accident. An incredibly tragic end to a situation that never should have happened in the first place.
“Employees cannot leave their safety in their managers’ hands. Yes, employers are required to provide a safe environment, but unfortunately, some employers will turn a blind eye to corners being cut as long as production levels are met.”
Robinette cautions that accidents can come at any time in any form, and the more your job rises in risk, the more training you should receive. One man tragically lost his life while practicing good safety protocol. He was wearing ear protection, as he was instructed to, but what he hadn’t been told was to never turn his back to the area where trucks come in and out. He was hit and run over by a truck because he couldn’t hear it and didn’t see it coming. Another tragic outcome that simple training could have avoided.
“Many people think that immaturity and inexperience make you more susceptible to injury, but it’s actually with the seasoned employees where we see the most accidents because they let their guard down. When you’ve been in an industry for 20, 30 years, some actions become like breathing – you do them without even thinking. The harsh truth is that you can never let your guard down and you should never assume that the company you’re working for has good functioning equipment – always ask questions, always be sceptical.”
Robinette believes that in many industries with bravado and machoism engrained in the culture, pride can typically get in the way of a good, healthy question – and when it comes to safety, questions can save lives. He recommends that all workers put their safety first and never make compromises to keep a job.
“Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you are risking your life for the sake of a job. You can always get another job but you’ve only got one life.”
On this Day of Mourning, we remember
Today we stop to remember those who never made it home or who had their lives changed forever simply by going to work. It should never have happened.
Superior Glove is on a mission to protect as many workers as we can by designing and manufacturing the very best hand protection in the world.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Robert V. Fallarino is a trial attorney with more than twenty-five years of experience leading medical malpractice litigation, complex labor law, and product defect litigation. He strives to resolve matters in the most advantageous setting for his clients, whether that means obtaining a jury verdict, a court conference settlement, or by use of a mediator. Fallarino has been named to the 2019 and 2018 list of Best Lawyers in America® and since 2012 has been named yearly to the New York Metro Super Lawyers© List. He can be reached directly at [email protected]
Jeffrey L. Robinette is a National Board Certified Trial Attorney, a National Top 100, and a Super Lawyer. Practicing in West Virginia, he specializes in personal injury law representing those who been seriously injured or killed due to the irresponsible acts of an individual or company or have suffered financial losses due to property damage or professional malpractice. In 1999, he founded Robinette Legal Group, PLLC and has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims. He is a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and a proud veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. In his legal practice, he offers his clients the same honor, dedication, and discipline that he gave to his country when he served. He guarantees respect, compassion, integrity, attention to detail, and hard work to each and every client.