Security guard's failure to wear helmet properly justifies benefit reduction
Case name: Lesniak v. Service Management Systems, Inc., 18 FLWCLB 45 (Fla. JCC, Orlando 2011).
Ruling: A Florida judge of compensation claims ruled that the employer was entitled to reduce a guard's disability compensation by 25 percent due to his alleged failure to properly wear his safety helmet at the time of his accident.
What it means: In Florida, a statutory reduction of benefits is triggered when a worker intentionally commits an act in refusal of the employer's requirement to use a safety device.
Summary: A security guard supervisor was working at a shopping mall when he fell off an electric three-wheel vehicle and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Because of his brain injury, he had no recollection of the accident or whether he was wearing a helmet. Witness testimony and surveillance video indicated that the guard was wearing a helmet but the chin straps were pulled through the back of the helmet. The employer sought to reduce the guard's benefits by 25 percent due to his alleged failure to properly use his safety helmet at the time of the accident. The Florida judge of compensation claims determined that the employer was entitled to a reduction in benefits.
The JCC found the evidence strongly supported the conclusion that the guard intentionally and consciously chose to reject his employer's instruction to wear his helmet with the chin-strap fastened snugly under his chin. Also, the employer established a causal connection between the guard's failure to properly use his helmet and his injuries. A neurosurgeon testified that had the helmet been properly worn, it would have been much less likely that the skull would have been fractured, thus resulting in a lesser degree of injury to the brain.
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June 9, 2011
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