Circus tent collapse an example of OSHA violation, workers’ comp claim

Workplace accidents can lead to workers' compensation claims. This accident provides a nontraditional example.

Employers are expected to provide a safe work environment. This is true in traditional work settings like factories, mills and hospitals as well as in less traditional environments like zoos and circus tents.

The fact that even non-traditional work environments are expected to follow safety regulations was highlighted by the tragic accident at a circus tent in New Hampshire. The tent collapsed in a "micro-burst" of wind during a storm. The collapse resulted in an investigation by the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This investigation resulted in the discovery of a number of violations. One of the many citations from OSHA states that the employer did not provide a place of employment that was free from recognized hazards that could cause "death or serious physical harm to employees". Instead, employees were exposed to what is referred to as "struck by and crushing injuries while working in a temporary tensioned-membrane structure during inclement weather".

Additional citations were provided for violations regarding exposure to electrical hazards and a lack of clearly marked exits. More specifically, the inspection found the circus operator failed to:

  • Heed the warnings of the National Weather Service for storms resulting in severe weather and high winds.
  • Properly construct the tent, using the wrong stakes, not anchoring the stakes properly and failing to replace broken or damaged stakes.
  • Disassemble the tent when high winds, exceeding 60 mph, were present.

These failures resulted in the collapse of the tent, causing the death of two audience members and multiple injuries to both guests and workers. The circus operator was fined $33,800.00 for the listed violations.

OSHA violations and workers’ compensation claims

Although OSHA and workers’ compensation are two distinct systems — an OSHA violation does not automatically result in a workers’ compensation payment — the presence of an OSHA violation can be used to support a workers’ compensation claim when a worker is injured while on-the-job. In this situation, the presence of multiple OSHA violations will likely support any workers’ compensation claims filed by the workers who were injured in the accident.

Whether injured in a traditional work setting or in a more unique environment, regulations are present to protect workers from unsafe conditions. When these regulations are not followed, a violation can support a claim for workers’ compensation. A successful claim can lead to various forms of payment, depending on the injuries.

Importance of legal counsel

Those who are injured during the course of employment are likely eligible for compensation through a workers’ comp claim. Contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your options.