Ohio businesses make efforts to ensure safe workplaces for their employees. However, sometimes, due to negligence or oversight, workplace injuries occur due to violations of specific safety requirements. The State of Ohio recognizes this as a serious problem and has provisions in place for injured workers.
What is VSSR?
Violation of Specific Safety Requirement (VSSR) pertains to situations where employers have failed to adhere to specific safety requirements, resulting in workers’ injuries or even fatalities. If the Ohio Industrial Commission (IC) finds an employer at fault, it can mean additional compensation / money for the injured worker and the offending employer being penalized for an amount equal to the additional money being paid to the injured worker.
Who Can File?
- Injured workers.
- Dependent(s) of the injured worker, in cases of death.
To file, complete the IC-8/9 form (Application for Additional Award for Violation of Specific Safety Requirement in a Workers’ Compensation Claim). The IC, not the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), holds jurisdiction over the VSSR application and the determination process.
What's at Stake?
If an employer is found guilty of a VSSR, the penalty can be hefty. The IC can award the injured worker between 15% and 50% of the maximum yearly workers’ compensation award rate for the year of your injury. This award is paid in addition to all other regular workers' compensation awards.
- For example, if the injured worker receives temporary total disability compensation (TT), in addition to the regular TT award they will receive an additional VSSR award calculated by multiplying the maximum TT rate for the year they were injured by the VSSR percentage awarded by the IC.
What Does the Law Say?
According to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), employers in Ohio have a duty to protect employees (ORC 4101.11) and a duty to provide a furnish a safe place of employment (ORC 4101.12). While employees have responsibilities; they should use provided safety equipment properly (ORC 4101.13). The specific ORC sections related to VSSR are found in (ORC 4123:1).
How is a VSSR Determined?
Three key criteria must be satisfied:
- A specific safety requirement was relevant and precise and applicable to the employer.
- At the accident time, the employer failed to comply with the specific safety requirement.
- The employer’s violation of the specific safety requirement caused the injury or fatality.
It's also important to remember that workers have a responsibility. If they neglect to use safety equipment correctly, the employer might not be deemed at fault.
The Investigation Process
Upon receiving a VSSR application, BWC’s safety violations investigation unit (SVIU) embarks on a detailed investigation. This includes:
- Site inspections.
- Gathering relevant documentation.
Once the investigation concludes, a Report of Investigation is filed with the IC and integrated into the claim before any IC hearing.
Once the investigation report is submitted, all involved parties get 30 days to review and submit any supplementary data. Following this, the IC schedules a pre-hearing conference for potential settlements or to determine the merit hearing's date. If no settlement is reached, a merit hearing is scheduled where the IC will provide a final decision.
Changes to VSSR
Ohio H.B. 81 has amended the VSSR process. As of September 15, 2020, VSSR applications need to be filed within one year from the injury date. Prior to this amendment, the window was two years.
Employers should remain vigilant and adhere strictly to safety regulations. Not only is this ethically right, but it can also save employees from being injured on the job. If injured due to a VSSR, knowing your rights and the process can make a significant difference in the compensation you receive.
If you believe your employer was in violation of a specific safety requirement, which may have caused your injury, we encourage you to contact Justice Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help you through this process. We welcome your call at 614-543-1320, or we invite you to complete our online contact form at any time.