Did you get hurt on the job as a prison guard in Pennsylvania? You could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and protect them as you seek the benefits you may be owed. Don’t let the confusion of a workers’ comp claim add to your stress. Reach out to Ainsman Levine, LLC, to learn more about your claim in a free consultation session.

Occupational Hazards for Prison Guards in Western Pennsylvania

Correctional officers in Pennsylvania face unique challenges and risks every day. Their work environment is unlike most others, often involving close interactions with inmates and exposure to various dangers. Here are some of the most common occupational hazards that corrections officers encounter.

Physical Assaults

Prison guards often face the risk of physical assaults on the job. Inmates can become aggressive or violent, posing a threat to the guards’ safety. These assaults can result in injuries ranging from minor bruises to more severe harm like fractures, concussions, or worse. Correctional officers must remain vigilant and prepared to handle such situations, often requiring physical strength and self-defense skills to protect themselves and maintain order.

Exposure to Infectious Diseases

Working in close quarters with a large inmate population, prison guards are at a higher risk of exposure to infectious diseases, including respiratory viruses like COVID-19 and even tuberculosis. Guards must follow strict protocols for hygiene and wear protective equipment when necessary to minimize the risk of infection.

Psychological Stress

The high-stress environment of a prison can take a toll on guards’ mental health. Corrections officers often witness violence, self-harm, and other disturbing events as part of the job. They also face the constant pressure of maintaining order and safety. This ongoing stress can lead to psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Physical Strain from Restraint and Control Tactics

During the course of their duties, prison guards often need to use physical restraint and control tactics. This can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, such as strains or sprains, especially if a situation becomes physically taxing. Guards receive training in safely applying these tactics, but the unpredictable nature of such encounters inherently poses a risk for injuries.

Environmental Hazards

Prison guards also frequently encounter environmental hazards like poor ventilation, exposure to hazardous materials (like cleaning chemicals or drugs), and extreme temperatures. These conditions can lead to respiratory problems, allergic reactions, or heat-related illnesses. Correctional officers can be at considerable risk if wardens and facility managers fail to provide proper ventilation or protective gear.

Common Types of Workplace Injuries for Prison Guards

Working as a prison guard is a demanding profession that involves a high risk of various work-related injuries. Below are some common examples of injuries that corrections officers can sustain on the job:

  • Muscle Strains and Sprains: Prison guards often perform physically demanding tasks, such as restraining inmates or responding to emergencies. These activities can lead to muscle strains and sprains, especially in the back, neck, and shoulders. These injuries often result from overexertion or sudden, awkward movements and can cause pain, swelling, and limited mobility.
  • Lacerations and Bruises: In the event of physical altercations with inmates, guards can suffer injuries like cuts, lacerations, or bruises. These injuries occur due to direct blows or contact with sharp objects. While some of these injuries are relatively minor, others can be severe and require immediate medical attention.
  • Fractures: Fractures are another common concern for correctional officers. They can happen during physical confrontations or accidents, like slips and falls. Fractures are painful and take time to heal, often requiring days off work and extensive medical treatment.
  • Stress-Related Illnesses: The high-stress environment in a prison can lead to stress-related physical illnesses among guards. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and gastrointestinal distress. Chronic stress can also weaken the immune system, making prison guards more susceptible to infections.
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries: Prison guards can develop repetitive stress injuries from performing the same motions over and over, such as operating security equipment or patrolling. These injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, can develop over time and lead to chronic pain and discomfort.

Eligibility Criteria for Prison Guard Workers’ Compensation

You must meet specific conditions to maintain eligibility for workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania. Here are the conditions you have to meet to claim workers’ compensation:

  • Legal Employee Status: First, you must be a legal employee. This means you are officially on the payroll as a full-time or part-time employee. Independent contractors or volunteers usually do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania.
  • Work-Related Injuries: The injury for which you claim compensation must be work-related. This means the injury occurred while you were performing your duties as a prison guard. Injuries that occur outside of work or during off-duty hours typically are not covered.
  • Reporting and Filing Deadlines: Timely reporting and filing are essential in the workers’ comp claims process. In Pennsylvania, you must notify your employer within 21 days of the date of the injury to maintain eligibility for benefits. After reporting, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Prison Guards

Eligible prison guards in Pennsylvania who sustain work-related injuries or illnesses have access to several types of workers’ compensation benefits, including the following:

  • Medical Benefits: Workers’ compensation should cover all medical care necessitated by the workplace injury. This includes costs for doctor visits, surgeries, physical therapy, hospital treatments, prescription medications, and medical equipment. The coverage continues for as long as the guard needs these services to recover.
  • Wage Loss Benefits for Partial Disability: Guards who are partially disabled and can return to work at a lower-paying job or with fewer hours are entitled to wage loss benefits. These benefits are worth two-thirds of the difference between their earnings before and after the injury. The state law sets a maximum weekly amount for these benefits, which are available for up to 500 weeks.
  • Wage Loss Benefits for Total Disability: Guards who cannot work at all due to their injuries may receive wage loss benefits for total disability. These benefits are worth two-thirds of the guard’s average weekly income before the injury, also subject to a weekly maximum. After receiving these benefits for 104 weeks, guards typically need medical exams to determine their impairment ratings. If a guard’s impairment rating is less than 35 percent, their status could change to partial disability.
  • Specific Loss Benefits: If a guard suffers severe and permanent disfigurement or permanently loses the use of a body part, their vision, or their hearing, they can receive specific loss benefits. These benefits usually come as lump sum payments based on the guard’s average weekly wage and the state schedule for the lost body part or function.

Contact a Prison Guard Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Now

If you’re a prison guard in Western Pennsylvania who got hurt at work, you need and deserve help from a workers’ compensation lawyer. Your lawyer can prepare and file your claim, deal with all the paperwork, and talk to insurance companies on your behalf. An experienced attorney will also know how to handle any issues that may arise, like if your claim gets denied or you’re not getting the right benefits.

Let Ainsman Levine, LLC, protect your rights and pursue the benefits you are owed. We can handle the legal work on your case while you rest and recover. Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how our prison guard workers’ compensation lawyers can help.