North Carolina Employers Average 3.6 Violations per Safety and Health Compliance Inspection in 2010

Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys want to share some of the information contained in the recently released North Carolina Department of Labor 2010 Annual Report. Earlier, in part one of our two-part series, we gave a general overview of the Standards & Inspections Division, Occupational Safety & Health Division and Administration Division. We conclude our series by taking a more in-depth look at some of the bureaus within the divisions.
We know that violations are issued for unsafe work environments at companies and businesses on a regular basis. However, too many times a company fails to get inspected and an employee pays the price by getting injured or contracting an illness at work in Charlotte, Greensboro or elsewhere in the state.

The report goes into detail about some of the citations and violations that were issued during fiscal 2010. Let’s review what we discovered.

The Boiler Safety Bureau conducted 51,288 inspections statewide of boilers, model/hobby boilers, antique boilers, pressure vessels and boiler repairs. There were also some investigations following accidents involving pressure equipment. In total, there were 2,771 violations cited last year. In 2005, there were more inspections (52,069) conducted and fewer violations found (1,916) than last year. We are left to wonder whether companies that use boilers or pressure vessels are taking worker safety seriously enough, or are they putting employees at risk of injury or death.

Many responsibilities fall within the realm of the Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau. This bureau ensures that the following are properly installed and working safely: elevators, escalators, moving walks, dumbwaiters, workman’s hoists, aerial tramways used by passengers, incline railways, lifting devices used by people with disabilities, and amusement rides. There were 60 accidents or incidents reported on these devices, of which 48 people needed medical treatment for injuries. There were 41 incidents involving elevators or related equipment and 19 incidents related to amusement rides. Incidents increased substantially from the previous year in both categories with 36 and 10 reported, respectively. The number of routine inspections conducted decreased from FY 2009 as did the number of new inspections.

The Employment Discrimination Bureau stands behind the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act that was enacted in 1992 following a plant fire at Imperial Foods in Hamlet. The disastrous incident was cause for whistle-blowers to be protected from employers who retaliated against them when reporting unsafe conditions at work. For FY 2010, there were 14 percent more complaints filed for safety and health concerns than the previous year. Overall, the bureau received 794 complaints, which was a 2 percent increase from FY 2009. Only 13 percent of the cases were settled last year, which leaves a lot of employees hanging in limbo and without compensation.

Since 1897, the North Carolina Department of Labor has been evaluating worker safety in the Mine and Quarry Bureau. They often offer seminars and training to miners and their employers to promote health and safety while performing their job underground. In FY 2010, there were 448 inspections of abandoned and active mines. The illness and injury rate per 100 full-time workers in the minerals industry in North Carolina was 2.23 last year.

The Compliance Bureau works within the laws, regulations and rules of occupational safety and health set forth by the government. The average number of compliance violations per inspection was 3.6 in FY 2010. In total, North Carolina companies were handed 10,387 total violations that resulted in $5,850,453 in penalties. A restricted budget for FY 2010 led to fewer compliance inspections than in any previous year since FY 2001.

On a more positive note, there were almost 6,900 hazards identified and eliminated by the Consultative Services Bureau in FY 2010. Of these hazards, 78 percent of them were considered serious hazards that could have fatally injured a worker if left undetected.

After reviewing the report, one thing is evident. It is extremely important that safety inspections continue to be conducted to help keep workers safe and hazard-free. Employers owe it to their workers to create a safe environment and to help prevent illness or injury. Equally important, they should certainly be held accountable when they fail. We appreciate the labor department keeping companies in check.

If you have been injured on the job in North Carolina, consider the experienced advice offered by the workers’ compensation lawyers at Lee Law Offices, P.A. We offer free consultations to injured workers who have questions or want to discuss the details of their case. Call 1-800-887-1965 to speak with an attorney today.

More Blog Entries:
Grain Elevator Explosions Put Workers at Risk of Burn and Other Injuries, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 7, 2011.

Court Case Demonstrates Need for Skilled North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 4, 2011.

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