A report released in April by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention addressed the number of occupational injuries among younger workers (defined as those between 15 and 24 years old) in the U.S. According to the report, among those younger workers, who account for 14% of the U.S. labor force, the rate of nonfatal injuries was twice as high as it was in workers older than 25. The report also notes that 49% of the nonfatal injuries to younger workers involved objects or equipment such as tools, machinery, or materials.
An “Editorial Note” that accompanies the report suggests that younger workers might benefit from more training, both in terms of job skills and in the recognition of job-related hazards. The editorial comments also suggest that younger workers, and in particular those who are in their first jobs, might be more reluctant to speak up when they do encounter hazards, and less knowledgeable about “their legal rights as workers.”
As the writers of the note point out, employers have the primary responsibility to ensure workplace safety. And, although the report does not address this, the employers might also be in the best position to educate young workers about their legal rights–including their right to receive workers’ compensation benefits for work-related injuries. Given the current economic downturn, many workers, especially those just starting those careers, might be reluctant to report some work-related injuries and might try to continue working even after being injured–potentially risking more severe injuries and a greater cost for treatment once they do seek medical help.
Given the goals of the Workers’ Compensation system, the employers should do everything they can to educate young workers about their right to prompt compensation for medical bills related to work-related injuries, as well as to disability payments when those are warranted. In addition, younger workers injured in South Carolina should be made aware of the fact that they are protected by law against any actions by an employer that would constitute retaliation for an employee’s pursuit of a legitimate workers’ compensation claim.
The South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee & Smith serve clients in numerous locations throughout the state. For a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation case, please contact us by phone or email.