The Oklahoma Supreme Court has come down hard against the alternative workers’ compensation law, which allows employers to “opt-out” of traditional, state-run benefits, so long as they provide their own coverage. It’s similar to the one South Carolina had been considering. worker3

However, these “alternative” plans have proven time and again to be detrimental to workers. To start, companies have the freedom to define what it means to be “injured.” Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a narrowed definition, meaning many workers who otherwise would have received benefits are shut out.

Another of these unfair provisions – the one on which the state supreme court recently weighed – was called the “180-Day Rule.” According to this provision, the act prohibits workers from collecting workers’ compensation if they had been employed for less than 180 days.  Continue reading

A company is facing steep fines from federal regulators at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for citations issued after a machine operator suffered a work-related amputation.worker6

The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA division launched its investigation into the plan after the machinist’s middle finger had to be amputated. At the time of the accident, the 53-year-old worker had been trying to reassemble a machine intended to separate chicken parts. At some point, the machine turned on suddenly and unexpectedly.

The incident, in Alabama, drew ire from the federal agency’s spokeswoman, who flatly stated this incident was not just unfortunate, but easily preventable. In fact, the company was aware that workers were exposed to the possibility of an amputation because they knew certain machines were prone to unexpected start-up. And yet, the company did not take action to address the malfunction nor did they warn workers of the issue.  Continue reading

Was a worker acting within the course and scope of employment when he tried to rescue a co-worker who had fallen into a concrete pit of methane gas at a work site? worker1

A lower court in Pennsylvania ruled yes, but now the company has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case.

The case raises important questions about whether those who step in to help others in danger on the job will themselves be protected under workers’ compensation laws if they are hurt. Continue reading

The latest annual report from UL’s Integrated Health & Safety Institute (IHSI) has issued a report that ranks the prevalence of health conditions of work safety in each state as compared to the national average.worker5

The results for North Carolina and South Carolina reveal something of a mixed bag.

For example, the North Carolina workplace fatality rate is in the 10- to 20-percent better range. However, the risk of certain health determinants, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke were in the 10- to 20-percent worse category. Continue reading

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Steel Corp., demanding the company change its workplace injury reporting policy, which currently mandates workers immediately report incidents when they occur. The company has taken disciplinary action against workers who don’t immediately file. steelbeam

Although this kind of policy may at first seem like a way to protect workers – after all, it may be in their best interest to report a work accident with injuries immediately – the problem is not all injuries are immediately apparent. A worker who doesn’t suffer any problems until days later will be discouraged from reporting the injury, due to the policy.

That fear would be with good reason, given what recently happened to two of U.S. Steel’s employees.  Continue reading

South Carolina should pay close attention to the decision recently handed down by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, which just ruled the 2013 opt-out statute is unconstitutional. gavel21

The ruling in Vasquez v. Dillards now paves the way for an appeal to the state supreme court and, perhaps ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a significant victory for workers everywhere, who have seen their workers’ compensation provision protections gutted in recent years by a concerted effort by lobbyists and politicians.

The Oklahoma Employee Benefit Act – also known as the “Opt-Out Act,” gave employers an alternative system to satisfy the state requirement to carry workers’ compensation insurance to grant benefits to workers injured on the job.  Continue reading

A horrific scene unfolded in Kansas recently, where a workplace shooting resulted in four deaths and 14 injuries at a manufacturing plant near Wichita. The gunman, an employee at the plant, was eventually shot and killed by a police officer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Authorities speculate it may have had something to do with the fact the gunman had been served an order of protection by his former girlfriend just hours before the rampage. The tragic incident draws attention once again to the serious problem of workplace violence. This was the fourth workplace shooting in the last 12 months.

A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that between 2006 to 2010, an average of more than 550 workers a year were killed in work-related homicides. Continue reading

Employees who are injured on the job are entitled to collect benefits for those injuries, including coverage of medical bills and a portion of lost wages, through workers’ compensation.hospital2

The time to act on these rights is immediately. That’s because workers do not have unlimited time to gather evidence and file a claim. Even though the law allows the injured worker latitude in failing to give written notice of the incident, all claims have to be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years.

Failure to file a Form 18 within this allotted time frame will result in the claim being forever barred, with no chance of recovery – not matter how strong your case. Even then, once the forms have been filed, the case cannot be allowed to languish. The courts will not wait forever. Continue reading

Our police officers in North Carolina take an enormous risk every day they show up to work.prison

Every time they don that uniform, their lives are on the line. In fact, the FBI reports that in 2013, there were 76 officers killed in the line-of-duty in the U.S. that year, plus nearly 50,000 who suffered line-of-duty assaults, with 30 percent of those suffering serious injury as a result.

Because state legislators recognize this possible danger, laws have been enacted that bolster protections and benefits for state-employed officers who are hurt on-the-job. Part of that involves full salary for officers injured in the line-of-duty – even when he or she can no longer perform his or her regular duties – per N.C. Gen. Stat. 143-166.19. That’s a benefit most other workers do not get. Those who are unable to work are usually paid 66 2/3 of their regular weekly wage.  Continue reading

Greenville News has reported a 55-year-old contract worker has died at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, days after a serious fall at a BMW manufacturing facility in Greer.ladder

Details of what happened – including the type of work the contractor was doing, the circumstances surrounding the accident and even the height from which he fell – were not immediately revealed by authorities. In fact, even the manner and cause of death were not disclosed, pending further investigation from the coroner.

What we do know is this: Falls are the No. 1 cause of death in the construction industry, and they are also a significant cause of injury and fatality at other work sites. Continue reading

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