A farm employee, who injured himself in a fall caused by a gust of wind, was recently awarded workers' compensation benefits following a decision by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC). The Torres v. Golden Oak Farms ruling may have implications for other agricultural employees and those who work outdoors.
The case involved a farm worker who was picking up trash outside, and placing the items in a garbage container. It was very windy outside, and while he was holding the garbage container a large gust of wind made him lose his balance. He lost grip of the container, and fell backwards onto his left arm. He injured both his shoulder and lumbar spine as a result of the fall.
The arbitrator did not agree with the farm's argument that the worker was not at any greater risk for injury than the general public. Since the worker was required to be outside and could not seek shelter away from the wind, the arbitrator found that the worker was subjected to a greater risk of injury than the general public. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission reviewed the arbitrator's decision and affirmed it.
This case may influence future decisions regarding agricultural and other outdoor workers. If workers are not able to avoid being exposed to inclement weather because of their jobs, they may be found to have a greater risk of injury in comparison to the general public. This will positively impact the ability of workers to receive workers' compensation benefits if they become injured while working under windy or stormy conditions.
Source: Risk & Insurance, "Farm employee secured benefits for fall caused by gusty winds," July 19, 2012
Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice please visit our Illinois workers' compensation page.