In 2012, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration lost a critical case in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the federal regulator can’t cite employers for failure to record work-related injuries and illnesses more than six months after the initial obligation to record the case occurred.
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Previously, the commission had held it had up 5.5 years to bring such cases, and taken numerous employers to task with hefty fines and penalties for failure to do so. There was great concern after that decision would result in companies being lax on record-keeping duties.

Now, OSHA has announced it’s proposing to amend it’s record-keeping rules to reinforce the duty to record illness or injury for as long as the employer must keep records of recordable injury or illness. That time is five years.
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The state of North Carolina abides by the so-called “coming-and-going rule” when it comes to injuries sustained by an employee who is traveling to or from his place of employment.
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Generally speaking, these injuries will not be covered by workers’ compensation unless the worker is driving a vehicle furnished by the employer as an incident to the contract of employment, or if the injuries were sustained while the worker was on a premises owned or controlled by employer.

In a recent case out of Georgia, a pastry chef suffered grievous injuries in February last year while on her way to her place of employment, a local bread bakery and cafe. According to news reports, she was astride her bicycle when a car driver ran over her.
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Those who are self-employed in North Carolina do not necessarily have to carry workers’ compensation insurance for themselves as sole proprietors or their partners or co-members of an LLC. That’s because these individuals are not automatically considered “employees.” However, it’s still generally a good idea, especially if the work involves moderate to severe risk of injury.
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Because the potential for a violation of law is high on this point, it’s important for small business owners to consult with an attorney to ensure they have secured the proper coverage, if necessary.

Even then, self-employed individuals may find it difficult to collect on that coverage if it’s necessary. Here again, employing an experienced legal team to help navigate the process can be well worth it, as there may be unforeseen complications in these cases with which other “regular” employees may not have to grapple.
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A bill that would dramatically alter the South Carolina workers’ compensation system has been introduced by a Republican representative (who is also a small business owner), and has been referred to the state’s Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
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HB 4197, more widely known as the South Carolina Employee Injury Benefit Plan Alternative, would authorize new forms of insurance coverage and exemption from the current South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. The move comes one year after Tennessee also introduced similar legislation, though that was not ultimately voted on before the legislature adjourned for the session.

Only two other states – Texas and Oklahoma – allow workers’ compensation alternative options. The goal, supporters say, is to reduce employer costs associated with worker injuries and to “encourage market competition.” Two co-sponsors of the bill include a chairman on the labor committee, as well as another representative who is also a small business owner.
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The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports two workers are killed monthly in the U.S. due to trench collapses. Employers owe their workers a duty to create a hazard-free work environment that doesn’t imperil employees and put them at risk for serious injury or death. constructionsite1.jpg

Cave-ins in particular pose a grave risk, and are more likely to be fatal than other types of excavation-related accidents.

The recent case of Fernandes v. DAR Development Corp. involved a worker who was injured as a result of a trench collapse. The case, a third-party work injury lawsuit, was recently before the New Jersey Supreme Court.
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A new study conducted by the RN Work Project, recently published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, found that newer nurses may be at higher risk for injuries than their more experienced counterparts. nurses.jpg

It’s been well-established that those within the nursing profession face a high risk of work injury both within North Carolina and nationally. Some of the more common, non-fatal injuries include:

  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Needle sticks

But this research discovered newly-licensed nurses may be subject to a higher likelihood of hazards, mostly due to heavier workloads, longer hours and inexperience.
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A construction company has been ordered by federal regulators to pay nearly $425,000 in penalties for six egregious violations of workplace safety leading to the near-death of a worker who was buried in an eight-foot trench. pipework.jpg

The collapse happened fast, within a matter of seconds. His co-workers rushed to his side and helped to dig him out with their bare hands. Then, just moments after they pulled him to safety, the trench, which was unprotected, collapsed again.

The worker was severely injured and had to be hospitalized.

Now, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the company was found to violate 16 total safety violations, with of those being the more serious, “willful violations” for failing to protect its workers. OSHA investigators say the construction company was aware the site was dangerous, and yet did not take the necessary, adequate measures to protect workers.
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In North Carolina, any company with more than three employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
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There are a few exceptions in which smaller companies may required to do so, and some others in which larger companies may be able to forgo it. However, that’s the general rule.

When companies fail to do this, they may be subjected to fines and criminal actions, as well as lose the exclusive remedy protection normally afforded them, which means employees who are injured retain the right to sue the firm for personal injury. The firm may also still be responsible for paying those benefits to any workers injured.
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If you are injured at work as a result of negligence from a co-worker, that co-worker would be protected from a personal injury lawsuit per the exclusive remedy provisions of South Carolina workers’ compensation law.
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This is the provision that shields the employer and any employees from litigation, even if they acted with negligence. (Intentional acts may be different.)

In some cases, contractors could claim co-worker status (or “statutory co-employee” and therefore also be protected under exclusive remedy provisions. But this is not an absolute.

In fact, there have been a number of cases in which independent contractors have been successfully sued for personal injury claims, even after the employee has collected workers’ compensation.
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Workers’ compensation laws vary from state-to-state, but workers’ compensation coverage is mandated by all companies of certain sizes in all but a few states.
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Those that fail to meet this requirement are subject to a myriad of penalties and fines, and of course they are still responsible for paying when a worker is injured or killed on-the-job.

In North Carolina, all companies with three or more employees – including those who operate the corporation – must obtain this insurance coverage. The only exceptions are:

  • Certain railroad employees;
  • Casual employees (those not performing work pertaining to the regular course of company’s business);
  • Domestic servants employed by a household
  • Farm laborers with fewer than 10, non-seasonal farm laborers;
  • Federal government employees
  • Sellers of agricultural products for producers

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