Unsafe work environment causes workplace diseases, fatalities

It is every employer’s duty to create a safe working environment for their employees. When they neglect their duty, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cites them for their violations and often levies fines against them. In addition to this, injured workers or their family members can file a workers’ compensation claim to recover compensation to cover their medical expenses or replace wages lost by taking time off from work to recuperate.

However, a recent report shows that employers in North Carolina and across the nation may be skimping on their duties. Even though occupational fatality rates have gone down nationally since OSHA was passed, the progress seems to have halted in the last three years. In fact, approximately 150 people died daily across the country in 2011 in work-related accidents or from the contraction of an occupational disease or illness. The highest fatality rates were seen in the fishing and logging sectors, whereas those working in fire safety or nursing showed the highest rate of non-fatal injuries and illnesses.

The report by AFL-CIO was based on findings from statistics collected by OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries doesn’t usually compile figures on fatalities caused by work-related illnesses, but the AFL-CIO reports that 137 people died daily in 2011 from illnesses contracted on the job.

The figures paint a grim picture and have many calling on Congress to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which can strengthen the power of OSHA. Currently, the administration is so understaffed that it would take state agencies more than 50 years to inspect every workplace in the country.

However, North Carolina employers should step up to the plate and do their part in improving their workplaces and training their employees to avoid workplace injuries and fatalities. However, if workplace accidents continue to take place, North Carolina employees should be aware of their right to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Most employers in North Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. An injury is covered if it occurred while an employee was on the job site or if the employee was injured while in the course of employment. Injuries that occur during lunch break or at a company party may also be covered.

Source: MSNBC, “US work-related deaths top 150 a day, finds AFL-CIO report,” Ned Resnikoff, May 8, 2013

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