The family of a roofer who fell 33 feet to his death in 2016 cannot sue the employer because the employer did not know with certainty that disregarding its own safety policies and federal workplace safety regulations would result in an accident, the Supreme Court of South Dakota said on Wednesday.
Although the 2016 death of Justin Althoff was “tragic,” the Supreme Court said the estate at best only found that Pro-Tec Roofing Inc. willfully ignored a known risk or was negligent, and that’s not enough to escape exclusive workers’ compensation compensation. according to Lynn Althoff v. Pro-Tec Roofing Inc., filed in Pierre.
“Pro-Tec’s knowledge that a failure to strictly comply with OSHA requirements or its own safety policies could result in a case does not alone constitute a material issue of fact in a dispute over the question (of) whether Pro-Tec committed an intentional act. , i.e., that Pro-Tec knew that a case was substantially certain to occur because of its conduct,” the court wrote.
Pro-Tec did not provide employees with safety harnesses but instead used a warning line system to mark the edge of the building. However, Pro-Tec did not follow standards set by the Swedish Work Environment Authority for placing warning lines. And the company has not designated a person to supervise those working around the warning lines, according to OSHA.
Pro-Tec reportedly claimed that it operated on the belief “that it was the responsibility of every employee to look out for each other.”;
OSHA fined Pro-Tec $77,000 for violations that included failing to educate employees about fall hazards and not using a proper fall prevention system. OSHA labeled Pro-Tec’s failure to properly set its warning line and its failure to dedicate a safety monitor as “willful” violations.
OSHA had previously cited Pro-Tec for failing to provide fall protection, and the estate argued that the company was clearly aware that it was required to take steps to protect its workers from falling from the roof, and its failure to do so meant that a serious injury or death “was absolutely certain.”
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