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November 2009 | Volume 12 / Number 11
E911 Watch

E911 Protects Employees, Compliance Protects Employers

By: Mark A. Lies, II

I think it’s critical in this day and age that employers explore all means of technology available to protect their employees. This is particularly true with the new administration in Washington that has indicated it is going to be much more aggressive in holding employers to their legal obligation to protect employees in the workplace.

A perfect example is E911, which helps emergency responders find 9-1-1 callers faster by providing detailed information regarding their location. It is conceivable that implementing E911 would be favorably received by OSHA and other regulatory authorities as a means of protecting employees in the event of a workplace emergency. Correspondingly, the utilization of such a system would help to protect employers from liability risk in the event of a tragedy.

How to Decide on E911: A Compliance Perspective

When deciding whether or not to incorporate E911 into your corporate risk management strategy, consider first the local laws and regulations and determine whether or not E911 is mandated. If it is mandated, that ends the inquiry right there. The system must be implemented.

If it’s not mandated, a risk-benefit analysis should be performed. Consider, among other factors, how an E911 system could be used and what will it cost. Then consider the risk of injury or other types of damages that could result from a failure to implement E911.

Should a lawsuit result from a workplace injury or death, the employer could face potential liability for failing to use such systems and have to argue that the economic cost of the system far outweighed the potential risk of injury to its employees or third parties such as visitors. That could be a difficult argument to make if there has been a serious accident involving injuries or death because of the natural sympathy of a judge or jury toward the family or estate or an individual who has been seriously injured.

Read more about E911 on TMCNet’s E911 Channel. IT

Mark A. Lies is a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. He can be reached at (312) 460-5877 or He has extensive expertise representing employers on a national basis in cases relating to occupational safety, health and liability issues.

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