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Provide security around workplace to prevent assaults—and crippling lawsuits

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in Human Resources

Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws are complex, and employers that want to fight a claim may find themselves in court for years. That costs money. That’s why smart employers look for ways to prevent claims.

One of those preventive methods involves the area sometimes referred to as the “zone of employment.” Parking lots and walkways leading to the workplace that are under the employer’s control are usually in the “zone.”

Make sure those areas are well-lit, safe and free of hazards or you may end up spending years and tens of thousands of dollars defending a workers’ compensation claim you could have easily prevented.

Recent case: Dennis Buck worked as a heavy-equipment operator and commuted 70 miles each way to the quarry that was his regular work site. He was usually the first to arrive and parked his truck in the company’s designated parking area.

One morning, three men accosted him and demanded money. When he resisted, they beat him and cut his face and arms with a switchblade.

Buck applied for workers’ compensation. The company argued that it wasn’t responsible for injuries that happen when employees arrive early for work or before they enter the workplace.

The court said more facts were needed to decide whether the parking lot was within the zone of employment. That means months (quite possibly years) of litigation—when providing security could have easily prevented the assault. (Buck v. Melco, No. 11-09-06, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 2009)

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