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Why do OSHA violations matter after a worker's death?

Previous posts on this blog have talked about how the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration protects Illinois workers by enforcing safety standards which private employers in the Chicago area and, for that matter, throughout the state, have to follow.

Likewise, Illinois has a similar state agency dedicated to ensuring that state and local government workers have safe and healthy environments in which to work.

However, these agencies do not have the power to require an employer, or another responsible party, to pay families compensation when they lose a loved one to construction negligence or to some other fatal work-related accident. They are instead limited to forcing an employer to do better with respect to safety in the future via fines and other penalties.

Nevertheless, knowing that a company violated OSHA standards in connection with an accident can be valuable information to a victim's family, especially if they are trying to pursue that company for wrongful death on a theory of third party liability for a workplace accident, a concept which this blog has discussed previously.

The reason this is important is that Illinois recognizes the concept of negligence per se. To explain, a worker's family ordinarily would have to prove that a business or other person owed a duty to protect the worker but did not uphold that responsibility.

However, if the family can show that a company violated an OSHA safety regulation, the court will assume the business acted negligently and will only require the family to show how the violation contributed to the worker's untimely death. In short, proving a company broke a law or regulation is a handy shortcut that families can use to get compensation.

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