The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

Workplace safety a concern after North Carolina worker's death

Workplace injuries are sometimes inevitable due to the dangers of a particular job. Fortunately, the workers' compensation system in North Carolina is designed with this reality in mind. However, efforts are made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help avoid workplace accidents that can lead to injury or death. Although workers' compensation benefits are helpful to those who are injured, most would agree that preventing the accident in the first place should be a priority.

Sadly, a recent accident outside a gas station in North Carolina involving a driver and a worker working inside a manhole raised concerns about a possibly unsafe work environment as questions remain over whether the accident could have been prevented.

A 52-year-old woman struck a 50-year-old Clean Fuels of Indiana employee with her car as she left a gas station after filling up. The undercarriage of her car went into a manhole opening and hit the worker underneath. Police are investigating the incident to determine how the driver did not see the workman. Sadly, the worker died as a result of the accident.

Police reports stated two orange cones highlighted the manhole. A spokesperson for the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety claimed the real issue was not the driver but inadequate protection afforded to the worker on duty. According to the spokesperson, cones are not enough to mark the opening--a driver should not even be able to get close to an area under repair or construction. Barriers should be put up to keep some distance, and the failure to do so may have created a hazardous work environment.

According to the Department of Labor regulations, floor openings should either be constantly attended by someone or have standard railings. An investigation by the North Carolina Division of Occupational Safety and Health is underway to determine the employer's fault in the accident. According to the vice president of the company, necessary safety measures were in place.

Despite safety measures, workplace safety remains an issue and workers sustain injuries on the job. A workplace accident resulting in the workers' death places an emotional toll on family members. Where the deceased was the breadwinner of the family, it places an additional financial strain on relatives and hampers the grieving process. Loved ones may be able to file a workers' compensation claim against an employer to recover benefits to ease their financial burden.

Source: NBC 17, "Manhole death raises workplace safety questions," June 15, 2012

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