Farm employee secures benefits for fall caused by gusty winds
Case name: Torres v. Golden Oaks Farms, 20 ILWCLB 69 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2012).
Ruling: The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission held that a worker's back injury, sustained when he was knocked over by a gust of wind while performing his work duties, arose out of and in the course of his employment.
What it means: In Illinois, work outside subjects a worker to a greater risk of injury than the general public from wind gusts. Therefore, injuries sustained if the worker loses his balance and falls due to windy conditions while performing his work duties arise out of and in the course of his employment.
Summary: A worker at a farm was performing light-duty work picking up bottles outside and placing them into a garbage container. It was extremely windy. He was holding the container when a gust of wind caused him to lose his balance. He caught his foot on some dirt. The container flew from his hand, and he fell backward onto his outstretched left arm. He explained that he was attempting to prevent further injury to his lower back from a prior incident. He sustained injuries to his shoulder and lumbar spine. The arbitrator found the worker's injury arose out of and in the course of employment and awarded benefits. Upon review, the commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.
The arbitrator rejected the farm's assertion that the worker was not subjected to any risks greater than that of the general public. The worker was required to work outside in the wind while the general public was not required to work outside. Also, the general public was free to remove themselves from a windy environment, whereas the worker was not permitted to do so. Therefore, the worker was subjected to a risk greater than that to which the general public was exposed.
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July 19, 2012
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