Both the state and the federal government have an interest in tracking workplace accidents, injuries and death. In addition to using data to create safer workplaces and enhance regulations, the data can also be useful in determining where employers may be taking shortcuts. Recent reports indicate that there are more North Carolina workers dying on the job than the state is reporting.
Workplace safety is increasingly under scrutiny since the industrial disaster in West, Texas killed 15 and left hundreds injured. Factories, construction sites, and other industrial work sites are notoriously dangerous for employees. Employers as well as government agencies are accountable for protecting workers from such grave violations and preventable accidents. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping prevent workplace injury and protecting the rights of employees in North Carolina.
According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, there were 53 work fatalities in 2011. The Department of Labor manages its own statistics on workplace accidents and reports that the number is closer to 150, based on a recent report from the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health. It is not surprising that states have an incentive to keep reporting rates low. A high incidence of work-related death could be indicative of non-compliance or in an inability to manage workplace safety. This could leave state agencies open to intervention by the federal government to ensure compliance with OSHA laws.
The North Carolina Department of Labor only reports workplace deaths that the agency has the authority to investigate. Alternatively, the federal BLS report includes accidents that are not under state jurisdiction. Accidents and injuries that are not reported by North Carolina, include accidents involving transportation and workplace violence deaths. Conveniently, the state claims that since it does not investigate the claims, it's not able to claim them as work-related accidents. This means that the number of employees who die in work-related accidents is significantly underreported.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 19 workers killed in 2011 on the job due to violent acts in North Carolina. OSHA has reported that the average fine imposed by North Carolina OSHA for a serious violation (including serious bodily harm to an employee) was only $1,309.95. This is an insignificant amount for many large companies; even with they are fined for repeat violation. When OSHA investigates a violation, it's able to fine up to $7,000 for a serious violation. Usually companies are fined much less than this, even in the event of a fatality.
If someone you love died in a work-related accident, you do have options and rights. An immediate investigation can help determine the cause of the accident and hold responsible individuals or entities accountable. One way to prevent work-related accidents is to closely track the type of injury or accident and to create preventative measures in the future. It is important that both federal and state agencies accurately report the number of deaths to ensure that employers are held accountable. Companies that have a high incidence of work-related death could also be fined for repeat offenses and violations of state or federal regulations.