Colorado Workers’ Compensation for Injured Ski Resort Employees
What steps to take after you’ve been injured while working at a ski resort
Winter sports are an important part of life here in Colorado and a vital part of our local economy. More than 10,000 people are employed at ski resorts across Colorado, filling a broad range of positions. Ski and snowboard instructors are some of the most popular positions, allowing employees to work with adults and youth of varying skill levels. Technicians who service the skis and snowboards, as well as lift operators, are also popular positions. Ski patrol personnel assist with lost or injured skiers or snowboarders, helping to handle the rescue process.
In addition to employees who work hands-on with skiers and snowboarders, as well as equipment, the resorts also rely on an army of support staff who fill other positions ranging from management to hospitality staff. All of these positions have different duties which may include working with the general public or fast-paced settings that require a lot of attention. The activity level on its own can create an environment that makes accidents more likely.
The good thing is that injured ski resort workers have help available to them in the form of workers’ compensation, which can provide much-needed support following one of these incidents.
Common accidents and injuries at ski resorts
“Skiing facilities” have the third-highest non-fatal injury rate among all industries in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Even though most resorts make worker safety a priority, accidents are inevitable. For example, ice can build up in areas around the slopes, or a guest may not practice safe skiing behavior.
Some of the most common injuries among ski resort employees include:
- Falls from slipping on ice or snow
- Collisions with other skiers or boarders
- Lifting-related injuries from transporting injured skiers or snowboarders
- Strains and sprains
- Getting caught or falling when assisting someone out of a lift
- Lacerations, cuts and bruises
Some of the other hazards may include employers failing to perform avalanche mitigation training, exposure to known toxic chemicals and not having access to the proper protective equipment. Any of these situations could lead to a risk of injury.
Understanding the rights of injured ski resort workers
All ski resort employees in Colorado, whether they are employed by Vail, Aspen, Alterra or Mountain Capital, are entitled to certain rights under state law. For example, after an injury occurs, an injured worker has the right to assist in the selection of the physician with whom they will seek medical attention. If employers and their insurance companies do not appropriately provide a list of physicians to an injured worker within 7 days of their injury, then the employee is free to use a doctor of their choosing.
The Colorado workers’ compensation system also provides for wage loss benefits when an injured worker misses at least 3 work shifts. The wage loss benefits are categorized as either temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits. Temporary total disability occurs when the employer cannot accommodate the doctor’s restrictions, or if the doctor decides to take the worker off-duty. Temporary partial disability is when an injured employee is unable to work their regular hours or at their regular pay rate, but is still earning some amount of money from their employer.
At the conclusion of a claim, an injured worker who has not fully recovered from their injuries may also be entitled to a permanent disability award. Permanent partial disability involves loss of function for a body part, such as an arm or leg. In the case of permanent total disability, the worker cannot return to work in any capacity. All of these classes of disability allow employees to receive compensation.
If an injured worker’s claim is denied, or if specific benefits are withheld, they have the right to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, and importantly, an injured worker may even be able to recover benefits if they find out that their employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. In those circumstances, an employee may have recourse through the Colorado Uninsured Employer Fund, which pays benefits for those not covered under workers’ compensation.
What to do after a ski resort accident at work
It is critical for a worker who is injured on the job to report the incident as soon as possible. Waiting to file a report can result in a complete denial of the claim or a reduction in benefits.
The employer also has some critical legal obligations. For instance, they must file an injury report with their carrier and the Division of Workers’ Compensation, and they must provide a list of designated providers to the injured party within 7 days.
The importance of ensuring that the proper procedures are followed after an on-the-job injury cannot be overstated. In many instances, getting an attorney involved to assist can make all difference.