Economic downturn leads to fewer work accidents; injured North Carolina employees need to take reporting requirements seriously

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that rate of injury declined about 10 percent last year, from 3.9 injuries per 100 workers in 2008 to 3.6 injuries per 100 workers in 2009.

While fewer North Carolina work injuries is certainly good news, we frequently report the primary cause of the reduction can be attributed to the economic downturn — fewer businesses operating and fewer employees operating them. Unfortunately, some of the reduction may also be attributed to workers not reporting injuries for fear of job loss or other repercussions. Failure to report a work injury can have a devastating impact on you and your family should an injury later lead to serious medical complications, work loss, surgery or disability. Laws are in place to protect injured workers from retaliation, while failure to report a work injury can eliminate your ability to be compensated for your injuries, lost wages and medical expenses.

“Complete and accurate workplace injury records can serve as the basis for employer programs to investigate injuries and prevent future occurrences,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said. “Most employers understand this and do their best to prevent worker injuries, but some do not. That is why my department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is aggressively working to ensure the completeness and accuracy of injury data compiled by the nation’s employers.”

She notes moves by an employer aimed at discouraging the reporting of work accidents are against the law and should be reported.

“We are concerned about the widespread existence of programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries, ” Solis said. “And we will continue to issue citations and penalties to employers that intentionally under-report workplace injuries.”

Despite the economic downturn, employees should be assured of safety in the workplace, she said.

“Too many Americans suffer each year from preventable injuries or illnesses they received while on the job,” Solis said. “Even in these difficult economic times, we must keep in mind that no job is a good job unless it’s a safe job.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that half of the 3.3 million private industry work accidents or illnesses reported last year were serious enough to require days away from work, job transfers or other actions.

If you are dealing with a work accident or need to speak to an attorney about a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina or South Carolina, contact the Law Offices of Lee & Smith today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 800-887-1965. Serving all of North and South Carolina, including Albemarle, Asheboro, Asheville, Burlington and Charlotte.

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