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A worker was within the course and scope of his employment when he sustained injuries trying to help a co-worker who had fallen into a concrete pit full of methane gas at a worksite, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has ruled.
Franklin Pound began working for Pipeline Systems Inc. installing pipelines and manholes at the Sewickley Borough Sanitation Department Plant in January 2010, court records show.
Mr. Pound was installing a new pipeline in July 2010 when he heard someone yell “man down” by the concrete pit located about 30 feet away, according to records.
Another worker was lying at the bottom of the pit, so Mr. Pound, the plant manager and an inspector descended the ladder to help, records show. Upon reaching the bottom of the pit and examining the worker, Mr. Pound realized the worker was dead.
While trying to climb out of the pit, he lost consciousness and fell about 20 feet to the bottom, according to records. He was hospitalized and later learned there had been methane gas in the pit.
Listing injuries to his left leg, knee, foot, ribs, back and lungs, Mr. Pound filed a workers compensation claim petition in November 2010, but Pipeline Systems denied that he was within the course and scope of his employment when he was injured, according to records.
However, in April 2012, a workers compensation judge issued an interlocutory decision and order stating that Mr. Pound was within the course and scope of employment, records show.
Pipeline Systems appealed to the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, which affirmed the judge's order in August 2014, according to records. Pipeline Systems appealed the board's decision to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the board's order, ruling that Mr. Pound is entitled to workers comp benefits.
The ruling states that, according to the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, an injury arises out of the court and scope of employment if it occurs “in furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer, as well as other injuries which occur on premises occupied or controlled by the employer.”
In addition, the Pennsylvania General Assembly amended the Workers' Compensation Act in 2003 to provide benefits for “an employee who, while in the course and scope of his employment, goes to the aid of a person and suffers injury or death as a direct result of … rendering emergency care, first aid or rescue at the scene of an emergency,” according to the ruling.
At the time of the emergency, Mr. Pound was “engaged in the furtherance of (Pipeline Systems') business or affairs and was, therefore, within the course and scope of his employment,” the ruling states.
Workers compensation payers should monitor the drugs injured workers take as a result of a California Supreme Court ruling that an injury needs only to be a contributing cause in a compensable death.