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Injuries suffered in rescue effort deserve workers' comp

There are times when the positions that people choose to take have to prompt the question, "what were they thinking?" A recent case involving denied workers' compensation is sparking this question for us right now. It happened in a state other than Texas but something like it has certainly happened here before. So it is that we write about it.

The case is out of Pennsylvania. A construction worker doing a pipeline installation job at a sewage treatment plant in 2010 fell 20 feet from a ladder. He was climbing out of a concrete pit after a failed attempt to save the life of another worker who had fallen into the hole.

What he didn't know was that there was methane in the pit and as he was climbing out, he was overcome by the gas and fell. He suffered an injured leg, knee, and foot. He also injured is back, his head and suffered lung damage.

When he filed for workers' compensation, his employer denied the claim. The company argued the worker had suffered his injuries performing actions that were not within the scope of his job and therefore weren't covered by insurance. The state's Workers Compensation Appeals Board disagreed with that assessment, as did a higher court that heard the company's further appeal.

As the judge in the Commonwealth Court observed recently, "Attempts to render aid to another do not, in and of themselves, constitute an abandonment of employment." Imagine how a decision to the contrary might quash the good Samaritan inclinations that anyone might have in a similar situation going forward. Is that the kind of culture we should encourage?

Source:, "Worker injured during rescue bid can't be denied workers comp, Pa. court says," Matt Miller, July 7, 2015

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