The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division recently find a Springfield meat company almost $8000.00 after a worker suffered a hand injury while operating a meat tenderizing machine.
According to the Oregon OSHA press release, the injured employee had been using the machine for about a year without any safety guard. Inspectors found that the safety guard had been missing for almost two years, and that the employer did nothing to replace the guard. The fine was adjusted due to the fact that the employer is a small company.
Under the Oregon Workers' Compensation statute, this injured worker likely has no direct claim against her employer for the employer's obvious negligence. The Workers' Compensation Act contains a provision making the worker's compensation benefits the "exclusive remedy" for the worker's losses. There are exceptions to this general rule, but they are narrow. For example, had the Oregon OSHA "red tagged" this equipment, and the employer then forced an employee to use the equipment, resulting in an injury, then a specific statutory provision allows the injured worker to file a direct claim for negligence against the employer.
This "exclusive remedy" provision is significant, because the Oregon Workers' Compensation statute scheduled benefits, which include no compensation for the loss of an injured worker's health, or loss of enjoyment of activities while off work. Although the benefits available pale in comparison to the potential compensation in a negligence claim, the Oregon Courts have found that this scheduled benefit scheme is roughly equivalent to the remedies available to victims of negligence, making the Workers' Compensation Act constitutionally adequate. Other possible avenues for a traditional negligence case involve "third-party claims," and Employer Liability Law claims.