Illinois Welder’s Knee Injury While Swiveling in Chair Found Compensable

Using a neutral risk analysis, an Illinois appellate court reversed a trial court’s decision that in turn had affirmed the denial of workers’ compensation benefits to a worker who injured his left knee while performing welding operations at his employer’s facilities [Adcock v. Illinois Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2015 Ill. App. LEXIS 628 (Aug. 14, 2015)]. For some three years prior to the injury, the worker performed his welding duties while sitting in a rolling chair that the employer provided in order to accommodate a condition of ill-being in the worker’s right knee. He testified that he injured his left knee when he used his left leg to maneuver the chair in order that he could continue welding. The Commission determined that the act of turning, even in a chair, was an activity of normal life and did not constitute a compensable injury under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Accordingly, the Commission found that while the injury was sustained in the course of the worker’s employment, it did not arise from that employment.

Three Types of Risks

The appellate court disagreed with the Commission’s analysis. It observed that there were were three types of risks to which employees may be exposed:

  1. risks that are distinctly associated with employment;
  2. risks that are personal to the employee, such as idiopathic falls; and
  3. neutral risks that do not have any particular employment or personal characteristics.

Exposed to Risks to Greater Degree Than General Public

The court continued that with respect to the neutral risks category, injuries generally do not arise out of the employment and are compensable under the Act only where the worker is exposed to the risk to a greater degree than the general public. Turning in a chair was certainly an activity of everyday life. As the Commission had noted, the worker’s injury was compensable only if he was exposed to this risk to a greater degree than the general public. The court said the worker had made that showing. He welded approximately 70 locks during one workday. For three years he had to perform his welding from a seated position, using a wheeled chair to maneuver. To perform his duties, he had to move and turn his chair repeatedly. The worker had to perform under time constraints. The court concluded, therefore, that under a neutral risk analysis, the worker’s injury arose out of his employment because he was exposed to the risks inherent in an everyday activity (turning in a chair) to a greater degree than the general public by virtue of his employment.

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