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Workers' compensation due to employee who attempted a rescue

A recent incident occurred outside North Carolina at a sanitation plant. A crew was working on installation of a pipeline when screams for help were heard. The person yelling was screaming that a fellow worker had fallen into a concrete pit. The events that followed resulted in a workers' compensation dispute between the worker who then attempted a rescue and his employer.

The concrete pit at the work site was reportedly filled with methane gas, and the fallen worker was lying at the bottom. The man who had been working on the pipeline descended into the pit to try to rescue his colleague. Sadly, upon reaching the bottom where his fellow worker was lying, the man determined that the other worker had not survived the fall.

The worker who had gone into the pit to try to save his co-worker proceeded to work his way back to the surface when he suddenly lost consciousness and plummeted 20 feet back to the pit bottom. It was only after he awakened in the hospital that he learned that methane gas was existent in the pit. The man suffered injuries to his lungs, feet, leg, back and ribs.

When the worker filed a compensation claim, the company attempted to deny it, stating that he had gone outside the normal scope and course of workplace duties. A judge later ruled, however, that the man's actions were within the bounds of his scope of employment. In fact, in 2003, in the state of Pennsylvania where the injury had occurred, an amendment was made that stated that part of the normal scope of duty included rendering aid to a fellow employee who has been injured in the workplace. The Commonwealth recently ruled that the worker who had gone to help another person on the job is entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits. North Carolina workers may pursue a claim for compensation benefits if they are injured under similar circumstances.

Source:, "Worker injured during rescue attempt due comp benefits", Stephanie Goldberg, July 8, 2015

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