Apr 11, 2008

Worker who falls asleep at wheel after 27 hours on the job denied workers comp

The Workers Comp claim of a Massachusetts (USA) employee who fell asleep driving home after 27 hours on the job has been denied and confirmed upon appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court, the highest state court. The facts of the case were that the employee worked under a contract that specifically forbade managers from requiring extended work shifts. Acccording to the company, his work was voluntary. The employee claimed he felt pressure to get the work done and feared for his job safety if it was not completed so he stayed on until it was done.

The courts have consistently held that for employees working in fixed locations, workers comp coverage begins when the employee arrives at work and ends when he or she leaves. Had management required the extended overtime, the situation may have been very different.

The bottom line: everyone values a good employee who is willing to go the extra mile, but be reasonable and remember you have responsibility for your own safety. Whether on the job, driving home, or climbing the stairs to bed, you need to be aware of your level of fatigue and plan accordingly. Cabs and motels are available. Your employer may accept your sleeping on site, particularly under such circumstances.

For employers, voluntary or not, 27 hours of straight work simply should not be permitted. If it does occur, good employee relations suggests that you should make arrangements for that employeee to get home safely or sleep on-site or in a nearby motel.

For more information, see "Workers' comp rejected for injuries after 27-hour shift."

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