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Workplace injuries by worker's fault eligible for compensation

Oklahoma employers are obligated to carry workers' compensation for all of their workers. Workers' compensation could be seen as a type of bargain between employers and their employees. It creates a balance between company owners and workers, whereby employers agree to pay compensation for workplace injuries, and workers give up their rights to sue their employers, except in cases of gross negligence.

The system protects company owners against financially crippling verdicts for damages such as pain and suffering. In exchange, workers retain the right to receive compensation for any work-related injuries, and no fault has to be proved. Compensation may be paid even in cases where a worker's injuries were caused by his or her own fault.

Three oil rig workers lost their lives and two were injured in an oil rig fire in December. OSHA investigators determined that the origin of the fire was an area where workers rest and have their meals. Upon questioning the injured workers, it was learned that they were using a space heater to warm the area, and they were using an oil-based mud that is flammable. The investigators believe the space heater to have caused the fire, but the investigation is not yet complete, and a detailed report will not be available until completion.

Two workers were initially killed by the fire, and a third worker was hospitalized with severe burns and died later. Two more workers were still recovering from burn injuries at the time of the media report. The owner of the Oklahoma company apparently stated that the use of space heaters on the oil rig was not allowed. However, regardless of whose fault it may have been that workplace injuries were caused, the workers are entitled to pursue workers' compensation benefits, and the surviving families of those who lost their lives may claim death benefits.

Source:, "INITIAL REPORT: space heater may have caused oil rig fire that killed three", Jan. 13, 2015

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