Federal and state agencies as well as workers' rights groups will calculate and assess the number of workplace injuries and fatalities every year. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine by the RAND Corporation, counterintuitive results in work-injury cases reveal that states with more comprehensive safety efforts have fewer fatal accidents. Our North Carolina workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to representing workers who have suffered non-fatal injuries and the families of fatal workplace accident victims.
Analysis of data shows that states that report low numbers of nonfatal injuries also have higher rates of fatal injury. Also, the data works in reverse, revealing that states with low fatality rates also have higher numbers of nonfatal injuries. Researchers found that states in the South, including North and South Carolina, had lower non-fatality injury rates and high fatality rates. These states also had lower worker compensation benefits packages and tended to have fewer rights for workers. In these states, workers collected less pay and were less likely to have union power.
Conversely, states with high non-fatality injuries and lower fatality rates were in the West. In these states, workers collected higher pay, benefits, and wages. They also tended to be more unionized and were more likely to carry out safety inspections in the workplace. The study looked at data collected between 2003 and 2008 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The authors of the study were comparing fatal and non-fatal injuries by state. According to the report, workers in the construction industry have the highest rate of fatalities.
Individuals responsible for the RAND study were surprised at this relationship between fatal and non-fatal injuries. The study seems to suggest that the scope of benefits may impact the rates of fatality. Interestingly, the states with the highest number of non-fatal injuries and the lowest number of fatalities were in the West. Arizona, Main, Oregon, Washington, California and Wisconsin had the highest number of non-fatal injuries and the lowest number of fatalities. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas had the highest number of fatalities and the lowest number of non-fatal injuries.
The researchers were surprised that the data was inversely related, concluding that the more extensive the workers' compensation benefits package, the higher reports of non-fatal injuries. This may mean that workers are able to file claims for non-fatal injuries more easily and with less hassle. States with higher fatality rates and reduced benefits packages may make filing non-fatal injury claims more challenging. Essentially, the benefits packages create an incentive for workers to report injuries.
The authors admit that workers' compensation may not be the only factor in the report of injuries. Each state has its own agency to enforce OSHA regulations and many state programs deviate from the federal programs. Every state has different requirements for wages and a different culture regarding compliance.
Ultimately, the study reveals that where a worker is injured can impact their ability to seek care and collect benefits. The findings also suggest that states reporting low non-fatality injuries and high fatality rates are likely underreporting the number of injuries that occur on worksites.
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