Are Water Cooler Slips and Other Break Time Injuries Covered by Worker Comp?

In order to receive workers compensation benefits for an injury, it must have occurred in the course and scope of employment. Accidents off the premises during break are generally not compensable. However, accidents that occur on premises during a normal break or while attending to routine personal hygiene/comfort issues are compensable. As is always the case with workers comp, it is your duty to report the accident and file a claim within 30 days of:

  • Date you were injured
  • Date the effects of your injury became apparent
  • Date that a healthcare provider first diagnoses or discovers your injury

Who’s in control?

The courts consider the employer’s control of the work environment as a critical factor in determining the award of workers compensation benefits. For example, when an employee goes off site for a lunch break, the duration away from the work site lessens the control of the employer. Therefore, benefits are not awarded in these cases. However, when an employee goes on a walk around the building, the degree of control exercised by the employer is generally accepted as a stronger one. In such cases, benefits are often awarded.

What if the employee has deviated from the course of employment?

Section 440.092(3) requires express employer approval in order for an employee to be covered when deviating from the normal course of work: DEVIATION FROM EMPLOYMENT. An employee who is injured while deviating from the course of employment, including leaving the employer’s premises, is not eligible for benefits unless such deviation is expressly approved by the employer, or unless such deviation or act is in response to an emergency and designed to save life or property.

But, don’t skip the break!

From 1995 – 2004, work-related injuries and illnesses related to overexertion reached 27 percent. So, skipping the break isn’t the answer. Just exercise caution whether involved in your day-to-day work duties or indulging in that second cup of coffee. If you do sustain an injury during your work break, be sure to inform your employer as soon as possible.

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