Does lower injury rate mean fewer injured workers?

Worker safety should be a top priority for employers across the country, including in North Carolina. As such, when the number of workplace injuries recorded by the federal government saw a decline of around 31 percent over the last 10 years, safety advocates and workers should have rejoiced. However, there is growing support for the contention that the number of workplace injuries reported has declined because of employer retaliation.

Retaliating against an injured worker for reporting an injury on the job is against federal law, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The administration has begun taking a stricter line with employers, claiming many injuries go unreported. Employees claim it is because of employer retaliation and this may be supported by statistics showing that around 100 court cases regarding retaliation for workers’ compensation benefits were decided in the last year alone, two times the number of cases decided 10 years ago.

Though some safety advocates claim that employers have created an atmosphere of blame when a workplace accident takes place, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce state that people may not report injuries for their own personal reasons. But, companies do not dissuade employees from coming forward because they do not want to end up violating complex regulations.

Safety experts advise employers to refrain from implementing incentives and bonuses for meeting safety goals, as these may inadvertently dissuade employees from reporting injuries. North Carolina workers injured on the job should be aware that it is their right to file a workers’ compensation claim for a injury suffered on the job, free from any retaliation measures from employers or supervisors. Worker safety is indeed a top priority of employers.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Workplace injuries drop, but claims of employer retaliation rise,” James Hagerty, July 22, 2013

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