Almost as soon as the last snowflakes fall in Ohio, we start to hear the sounds of summer yard work. From mowers and leaf blowers to chainsaws and wood chippers, landscaping and tree trimming companies put yardwork do-it-yourselfers to shame by jumping in at the first sign of spring. However, this energy and enthusiasm could also be part of the reason so many landscape and tree workers are injured each year. The pressure to work quickly while handling dangerous equipment is a key factor in many landscaping injuries.
If you are an employee of a landscaping or tree trimming company in Ohio, and you are injured on the job, you have the right to file a claim for workers’ compensation, no matter what your boss might tell you. If you get any pushback from your employer, we suggest talking to a workers’ comp attorney before you give up.
What Kind of Yard Workers Are Eligible for Ohio Workers’ Comp?
Lots of people offer lawn mowing and tree trimming services, but not all are eligible for workers’ comp if they get injured on the job. If you are self-employed or the sole proprietor of a landscaping business, you would be covered only by workers’ comp if you bought optional coverage for yourself—which is not a bad idea considering the risks you face.
Likewise, if you are hired as an independent contractor by a landscaping company, you would not be covered by workers’ comp insurance. Make sure you understand your status when you sign on for seasonal work. Companies do not have to provide coverage for contract workers.
Landscapers who should be covered by worker’s comp include:
- Full-time employees. If you are a regular full-time employee of a lawn maintenance, tree service, or landscaping company, your employer should have bought workers’ comp insurance through the BWC to cover you. If your work schedule is out of your control, you are provided with tools and equipment, you have fringe benefits, and deductions are taken out of your paycheck, you are most likely a regular employee and not a contractor.
- Part-time and seasonal workers. Even if you only work part-time or in the summer, as a regular employee, you are eligible for workers’ comp if you are injured while performing work duties. This goes for teenage workers as well.
- Undocumented workers. Many landscaping companies use undocumented workers during the summer. Under Ohio workers’ comp law, these workers have the right to medical and wage-loss benefits if they are injured on the job. As the BWC sees it, it’s the responsibility of the employer to check immigration status, so anyone who is employed in Ohio must be legal. Undocumented workers are, understandably, reluctant to apply for workers’ comp, but an attorney might help.
Understanding your right to workers’ compensation is the first step to getting the benefits you deserve. Due to the casual nature of outdoor work and how common it is to get hurt, landscapers are often hesitant to apply for comp. Their supervisor might convince them they are not eligible, that it’s not worth applying, or that it will hurt their employer if they apply. However, if you have a serious injury and are facing medical bills and weeks off work, you owe it to yourself and your family to get the compensation you deserve.
Common Landscape Worker Injuries
Wielding sharp and powerful tools put lawn maintenance, tree care, right-of-way maintenance, and landscape construction workers at a high risk of serious injury. According to a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) and the Ohio BWC, the workers most likely to be injured in the landscaping services industry include:
- Arborists and tree trimmers
- Workers who load and unload vehicles and trailers
- Young workers
- Shorter-tenured workers
The most commonly reported causes of accepted workers’ comp claims for landscape workers were struck-by-objects-or-equipment and overexertion injuries. This is difficult, hazardous work, and workers often have a grin-and-bear-it attitude, but they need not take an injury lying down.