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A Pennsylvania appellate court upheld a ruling that a worker injured while having fun during an unauthorized joyride on a company forklift is not entitled to workers compensation benefits.
The ruling in Ryan Miller vs. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board states that the injured worker “jumped on the forklift” and drove it around before steering it to the shift punch-out area.
He said hid did so because the equipment was “fun to drive.”
But he crushed his foot when he crashed into a pole en route to the punch-out area. He was driving with his foot outside the forklift's platform even though he knew that was not appropriate.
According to company policy he was not even permitted to drive the forklift because he was not certified to do so.
So it's not a big surprise that the court said he is not entitled to work comp benefits.
In his appeal for benefits the claimant argued that a supervisor had seen him driving the forklift and had not told him to stop doing so.
The supervisor countered that he had not seen the worker on the forklift and the supervisor was found more credible.
An important point here is that the employer's defense sets an example for other companies to follow.
In addition to the worker's driving of the forklift not having a connection to his job duties, it appears the employer had a solid set of rules that the employee disregarded.
One policy rule, among others, was that he was not supposed to drive a forklift without the proper certification for operating the machinery.
The court record also shows that the claimant received a safety discussion in operating a pallet jack, which was the job he was hired to do.
He had also watched a video on pallet jack operations and knew how to complete pre-shift inspection and battery changes on the pallet jack. He also demonstrated his ability to operate the pallet jack and took a test to do so.
The same cannot be said about his operation of a forklift.
So it is one thing for an employer to argue an employee was not in the scope of his or her duties when injured. But as this case illustrates, its better when an employer can argue it had a policy against such behavior and that such behavior went against its safety and performance education qualifications.