Here are some startling statistics. Across the globe, a person dies every 15 seconds as a result of work accidents or work-related diseases. Every 15 seconds, 153 workers are injured in work-related accidents. The International Labour Organization revealed that 6,000 workers succumb to accidents at work every day.
Sadly, the situation isn’t much brighter in the United States. And since massive financial burden is associated with work-related injuries despite proper insurance plans, US families suffer greatly.
Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, well over 510,000 workers can truly say that they owe their lives to a legislative initiative. This act ensured that workers across the United States are offered the right to safe jobs. Yet despite numerous work safety improvements, work accidents still occur and often enough, they claim the lives of hardworking American men and women.
Job injuries are taking a high toll on the American economy but more importantly, they destroy countless families across the nation. AFL-CIO data reveals that in 2013 alone, 4,585 workers succumbed to injuries sustained as a direct result of their work activities. But work accidents aren’t the only ones claiming the lives of Americans. Occupational diseases account for 50,000 deaths throughout the country.
What’s most worrisome is the lack of proper reporting whenever a work accident occurs. Although 3.8 million work-related injuries were reported to OSHA, AFL-CIO estimates suggest that the dark figure is closer to 11.4 million yearly (not all work-related injuries are reported).
When do Occupational Accidents Occur?
A workplace accident or an accident at work is defined as a discrete occurrence which takes place during an employee’s work time. Such accidents lead to either physical or mental injuries.
There is an inherent subtlety to the phrase “in the course of work”. Legally, each workplace accident should be covered by an employer’s insurance coverage. But aside from work place accidents taking place on company premises, there are other situations which still count as job injuries.
All such accidents have distinct causes and are a result of either human error, unsafe behaviour or inappropriate workplace conditions. They take place in unexpected situations and have gruesome consequences.
Top Causes of Work Related Accidents
It’s virtually impossible for employers to reduce the potential for workplace injuries to absolute zero. Regardless of how attentive one is to safety rules and job safety oversight, the risk of injury is ever-present. But there are a number of common causes for workplace injuries that can be addressed to minimize the aforementioned risk.
Fatigue and stress are among the foremost contributors to work place accidents. Distracted, anxious employees can easily be perceived as threats and have an increased likelihood of partaking in injury-causing activities. Slips and trips or toppling objects are other common causes, especially in cafeterias, office kitchens and break rooms.
Employees can easily slip on hardwood floors or tiles, linoleum covered with liquid or newly mopped and waxed floors.
Car accidents at work are other types of such work-related accidents and generally involve employees driving company cars, trucks or other vehicle types. Anything from deliveries, pursuing job-related duties, driving to and from off-site jobs as well as the commute is considered a work-related accident.
Construction workers and warehouse employees often succumb to work place injuries as a result of lifting. Back injuries and pulled muscles are common workplace accidents especially when workers don’t follow workplace protocols, proper lifting rules or don’t ask for assistance.
Improper use of protective equipment by employees manipulating hazardous materials can often result in horrible accidents. Burns, explosions, skin infections, loss of eyesight and respiratory diseases are only some of the possible injuries which can occur after an employee’s contact with chemicals and toxic waste.
However unbelievable it may seem, workplace violence is also a noteworthy contender among the causes of accidents at work. Security measures attempt to limit such escalations, but even so, innocent victims often suffer significant injuries as a result of disgruntled former employees or angry spouses attempting to right perceived wrongs.
Deadliest States to Work In
While some US states continuously improve on work safety conditions, there are others leading the pluton where it comes to dangerous work conditions.
In 2013, North Dakota hit a less-than-flattering milestone. After having been fuelled by a large oil boom and a state economic output doubling, North Dakota became the most dangerous state to work in. This state had the highest workplace fatality rates of the entire nation.
AFL-CIO statistics show that 14.9 per 100,000 workers succumb to work-related injuries in North Dakota, a figure which is four times higher than the US average. Workplace accidents claimed the lives of 56 Americans working in North Dakota in 2013 and when individual sector fatality rates were considered, North Dakota shocked even further.
Mining, oil and gas extraction sectors had a fatality rate of 84.7 per 100,000 workers, a figure that is seven times as high as the national average.
Though comfortably topping the list, North Dakota is strongly rivalled by other US states where fatality rates also exceed the national average. Wyoming came in second with 9.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers, West Virginia third (8.6), Alaska fourth (7.9) and New Mexico fifth (6.7).
An Employee’s Right to a Safe Workplace
Employers are directly responsible for accident prevention in the workplace. As the OSH Act states, hazardous materials must be eliminated from the workplace if they pose a threat to the safety of employees.
As a general rule of thumb, any employee has the right to work in an appropriately safe workplace where undue risks of injury are not present. If and when specific sectors involve dangerous work conditions, safety precautions have to be provided so as to reduce these risks to acceptable levels.
But even so, employers aren’t always legally liable for workplace accidents. In the event that an employee’s substance abuse directly contributed to a work related accident, the employer cannot be held legally responsible for that particular event.
In other situations, such as workplace injuries resulting from preventable hazards (exposed wiring, wet floors or defective machines), an employer is responsible for the events and can be held legally liable for his failure to maintain a proper working environment.
Employer Liability and Work Accident Lawyer Needs
Although worker’s compensation allowed medical costs to be covered by an employer’s insurance without the need to find fault, there are situations when employers could potentially face legal liability in the case of work related accidents.
In all cases of negligence, the employer’s liability is to be expected. As the majority of personal injury lawsuits, work place injury lawsuits are based on the negligence principle. Of course, seeking out work accident lawyers must be considered before entering such a lawsuit in order to seek compensation from your employer.
If you’ve chosen to sue based on the principle of negligence, your work accident attorney has to provide sufficient proof that an employer did not complete his duty of providing employees with a healthy, sufficiently safe work environment. Furthermore, he also has to prove that your injury occurred as a direct result of your employer’s failure to provide the safe workplace you require.
Negligent supervision is another situation where the employer is directly liable for any work place accidents. Because employers are mandated to have proper safety policies and follow federal and state-set law, their supervisors have to ensure that these protocols are followed.
If you wish to secure a fair compensation for the injuries you sustained as a result of a work accident, remember that a seasoned work place accident attorney can prove that your employer is at fault.
Filing a Work Accident Report Form
Any work-related injuries or illnesses should be reported to supervisors as soon as possible after their occurrence. Work accident claim forms vary from state to state and if you wish to receive worker’s compensation benefits, you will most likely have to file such a claim.
Normally, your employer will provide the required claim forms but if they aren’t immediately available, you can always request one from your state worker’s compensation board. Both personal and accident related information will be requested and a typical accident report will include information about:
- The type of injury
- When the injury occurred
- How the accident took place
- Were there other parties involved
- Medical treatment following your injury
Keeping records of your compensation claims is essential since problems can arise at any moment. After having filled out your claim form, hand it in to your employer who must also fill out the form’s employer section before filing it with the worker’s compensation claims administrator and board office.
After careful analysis of each claim, the administrator should contact you in order to inform you whether compensation will be awarded and the amount you are about to receive
Aggressive Union Activity and Lower Fatality Rates
Just as there are states where fatality rates have skyrocketed, there are also states where these rates are exceptionally low. Hawaii tops this list with 1.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers, quickly followed by Washington State (1.7), Connecticut (1.8), Massachusetts (1.8) and New York (2.1).
There are several factors believed to help lower fatality rates. Whether aggressive union activity and significant work place oversight are contributing factors to these low numbers remains to be analysed.
Work accidents are still a burden for many American families and the nation has to remember that renewing its commitment to protect employees from injury must be a high priority. Employers have to become aware of the fact that meeting their responsibilities can make a difference between life and death, not to mention a lifetime of suffering for the families of those lost because of work related accidents.