A “temporary contract worker” was killed at the Chicago Tribune printing plant two weeks ago. The worker was cleaning gears at the bottom of an elevator shaft when the elevator started.
The worker was cut in half by the machinery, resulting in instant fatal injuries.
This clearly was an avoidable accident. When people are working in an enclosed area such as this, it should be clearly and plainly marked as being out of service until the workers are out of the area of danger.
The difficult legal issue that this case presents is the status of the worker as a “temporary contract worker”. This implies that he was brought into the plant by a temporary manpower agency. If that is the case, the Tribune may have the benefit of the exclusive remedy provisions of the Worker’s Compensation Act.
The exclusive remedy provisions of the Worker’s Compensation Act provides in essence that for on the job injuries, your sole remedy is the Worker’s Compensation Act. Sometimes, employers who hire workers through temporary labor agencies have the benefit of the exclusive remedy and are considered the employer of the injured worker.
This would subject the Tribune to liability under the Worker’s Compensation Act, but would shield them from more extensive liability for a wrongful death lawsuit. This is especially true since compensation under the Worker’s Compensation Act is based on the average weekly wage of the injured worker. Most temp workers are poorly paid, so the liability of the Tribune for worker’s compensatino benefits would also be pretty minimal.