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Employee denied comp benefits for violating safety rule

Employee denied comp benefits for violating safety rule

An appeals court held that an employee was not entitled to workers compensation benefits for the serious leg injury he sustained because he violated a known safety rule.

In Jones v. Crothall Laundry, the Virginia Court of Appeals in Alexandria on Tuesday affirmed a state Workers Compensation Commission decision that an employee’s claims were barred because he failed to follow an enforced rule.

Andre Jones worked as a team leader in the Manassas, Virginia laundry plant of Crothall Laundry Services Inc., based in Wheeling, Illinois. At the plant, a chain link fence surrounded dangerous machinery, and employees were instructed to enter through the interlock gate in the fence, which was designed to deactivate the machinery upon opening. On Oct. 14, 2017, Mr. Jones bypassed the gate and entered the area through a separate opening, and his leg became pinned against a conveyer belt by a moving piece of machinery, causing him to sustain a serious injury.He filed a claim for medical and disability benefits, which his employer rejected for Mr. Jones’ failure to follow a safety rule. A deputy commissioner found that Mr. Jones’ action was the proximate cause of his injury and denied him benefits.

Mr. Jones requested a review by the commission, which unanimously affirmed the deputy commissioner’s ruling. He appealed, but the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the commission’s decision.

The appeals court held that credible evidence supported the commission’s factual finding that Mr. Jones’ violation of the relevant safety rule caused his injury. If the employee had entered through the gate, rather than a small opening not designed for ingress, the accident would not have occurred, said the court.

Although Mr. Jones argued about the enforcement of the safety rule requiring employees to enter the fenced area through the gate, several managers testified that the rule was enforced and that employees caught entering the fenced area without opening the gate to deenergize the equipment would be terminated. However, the appeals court found that credible evidence supported the commission’s factual findings that the employer enforced the known safety rule.

Therefore, the appeals court affirmed the commission’s finding denying Mr. Jones benefits.

Crothall Laundry could not be reached for comment.



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