North Carolina workers face safety issues even as big business seeks to reduce benefits

A struggling economy often leaves employers making tough decisions on how to make ends meet, which includes finding ways to cut corners. Often the answer is to fire employees or ask those that are close to retirement age, to do just that, retire with little compensation. Another solution, is to cut health benefits, which leave employees thankful to have a job but in disarray when sickness or injuries occur.

A common theme on our North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog has been about the public using their voice to prevent lawmakers from cutting insurance benefits. Previous posts have reported that insurance companies are getting richer at the expense of families who suffer from work injuries and need medical attention.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Asheville recommend that employees stand up for their rights when cuts in the workplace endanger safety. The fact still remains that fatalities and injuries occur in the workplace. Providing a safe work environment in order to prevent workplace injuries in North Carolina is a company’s responsibility — and laws are in place to protect employees from retaliation when they bring dangerous working conditions to the attention of management or authorities.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released that the United States falls somewhere in the middle of the pack in an international comparison of hourly compensation costs in the manufacturing industry. It is estimated that for 2009, the U.S. hourly compensation costs was $33.53, an approximate increase of 4% from the previous year. In most cases, that 4 percent sure didn’t go to employees, who continue to do more with less.

Twelve countries rose above the mark compared to the 20 countries that were below the U.S. hourly compensation rate (as covered by the BLS). Social insurance costs like retirement, health insurance, sick leave, and other insurance costs comprise about 24% of total compensation in the U.S. Compared to other countries, directly paid benefits like yearly bonuses, pay in kind and leave time make up a smaller portion of compensation costs in the U.S.

According to BLS, hourly compensation costs in the U.S are made up by the following costs in each category: $7.90 (social insurance) + $2.60 (directly-paid benefits) + $23.03 (pay for time worked) = $33.53
Though the reported social insurance costs are higher than the directly-paid benefits, employers are cutting corners to save on expenses incurred by the company. The problem is worker safety is not improving despite taking the benefits away. In 2009, North Carolina reported 125 workplace fatalities. Injuries on the job in North Carolina occurred at a rate of 3.1 per 100 full-time workers in 2009.

You may think it won’t happen to you but if it does, know your rights by seeking legal advice.

If you have been injured on the job or have a workers’ compensation disability claim, contact the personal injury lawyers in Greensboro, Charlotte, and elsewhere in the state for legal advice. The experienced attorneys at Lee & Smith will fight aggressively to protect your rights so call 1-800-887-1965 for a free consultation.

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