An employee who breaks the safety rules and gets hurt as a result can still get workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois. Violation of a safety rule does not automatically disqualify you, nor does the fact that the injury was your fault.

What does disqualify you is if you were outside the “scope” of your employment when you got hurt. This means that you were doing something for your benefit and not the benefit of your employer. It can come down to whether you were doing your job or just goofing around.

A worker was recently injured while welding. He had refused to wear the safety mask provided by the employer and suffered flash burns to his eyes. Some states have rules that prevent benefits, or reduce benefits, when an injury is caused by failure or refusal to follow the safety policy set by the employer. In Illinois, however, there is no such rule.

In the case of the welder, he was performing his job duties when he was injured, and that is what matters. His injuries should be covered and he should get benefits, such as payment for lost wages while he’s unable to work and coverage of his medical bills. Had he been doing something that wasn’t for his employer’s benefit, such as playing around with the welding equipment, his claim would likely get denied.

There’s a well-known case where a worker jumped onto a forklift with another employee to catch a ride to lunch. He was injured. The claim was denied, not because the company had a policy against riding double on forklifts (which it did), but because he was not within the course or scope of his employment when he got hurt.

Each case comes down to the very specific facts of the employee’s situation, work environment, etc. Talk to an attorney (someone with a lot of experience helping injured workers) before deciding whether you should file a claim for Illinois workers’ compensation.

We are workers’ compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

By Michael Helfand