The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

Employer knew of unsafe conditions before workplace injuries


There are many costs of doing business in North Carolina: operating costs, advertising costs and insurance costs. However, a workplace injury caused by an employer's negligence should never be included in the cost of doing business. Unfortunately, according to some workers' advocacy groups, that is precisely what some employers consider safety penalties levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

According to these safety experts, this is how employers carry out their cost benefit analysis because the fines levied by OSHA are often less than what it would cost negligent employers to improve their safety procedures. For those North Carolina residents who are not aware of the process, if an employee is hurt on the job, OSHA sends inspectors to investigate the accident, and, if the accident was due to the employer's negligence, a fine is levied against the employer. Nonetheless, OSHA representatives themselves claim that it should not take the loss of an employee's life to make employers comply with safety and health standards.

According to details regarding a workplace accident in another state, this may have been the case. In that incident, a factory worker died after succumbing to injuries sustained when he became caught in screws that blend hummus. He ended up with crushed arms and part of his head. He later died in the ambulance.

Surprisingly, this accident could have been avoided, if employees at the factory had been trained about the "lock-out/tag-out" procedures. These procedures require employees to cut power to the machinery before they begin cleaning. According to OSHA, the factory owners had been aware of the deficiencies in their procedures for two years before the tragic accident, but did not take the necessary steps. Their reason: it cost too much. Following this incident, the relevant company here has changed their chief executive, and embarked on a campaign to create hummus with love.

North Carolina employees should be aware of their rights in case they are hurt on the job. They have the right to file a workers' compensation claim to recover costs to cover their medical treatment and, if they take time off from work, replace lost wages. Bringing attention to the accident may also be one way to get the unsafe working environment inspected.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Hummus maker warned of 'extreme safety risk' before temp worker's death," Megan Woodhouse & Michael Grabell, May 21, 2014

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