Teen Worker Dies in North Carolina in Woodchipper Accident First Day on Job

A North Carolina teen was killed recently Gastonia on his first day on the job at a tree and stump grinding service. treecut

According to ABC-7 News, the 19-year-old was loading limbs of a tree into the wood chipper outside of a job site when the owner of the business and several other workers heard the machine start to get bogged down. Apparently, the youth was trying to kick a tree branch into the machine when his leg got caught and he was pulled in, resulting in fatal injuries. The business owner rushed over, hit the kill switch and put the machine into reverse gear. However, it was too late. Reports are that workers on site were so traumatized, they began ripping off their hats and gloves, while the owner immediately suffered a heart attack and had to be transported to a local hospital.

The tragic case is illustrative of the fact that young workers – especially those new to the job – are at heightened risk of serious injury and death, particularly when they don’t receive proper training and supervision from employers.

A worker advocacy group, youngworkers.org, reports every 7 minutes in the U.S., a worker is injured severely enough to require treatment in a hospital emergency room. There are an estimated 1.5 million teen workers in the U.S., with most of them employed in restaurants or other food service jobs. Annually, about 70 teens die in the U.S. as a result of work-related injuries. Another 795,000 are seriously injured. A total of 360 workers under age 24 were killed at work in 2009.

A fair number of injures occur in motor vehicle crashes, which often occur when teens offer delivery services. Restaurant and service industry injuries usually involve some type of burn (hot grease). Falls are also common, and injuries caused by defective or dangerous machinery are also a serious problem.

A fair number of youthful workers are employed by temporary agencies, as a growing number of businesses have turned to temp labor in the wake of the 2008 recession. An estimated 2.8 million workers are employed by the temp industry, according to ProPublica. A recent analysis by the news nonprofit revealed temp workers tend to face a higher rate of work-related injuries and deaths than permanent employees – and they may have a tougher time securing workers’ compensation benefits.

In these cases, claims for benefits can be made against the temp agency. Workers may have the option of filing a negligence lawsuit against the company for which their labor was contracted, but it will depend on whether there is evidence that company was a “statutory employer,” which would shield them from personal injury litigation.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is careful to drive home the point that young workers – just like all others – are entitled to a safe working environment, free of unreasonable hazards. These dangers often stem from:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Work that is dangerous, illegal and/or inappropriate for a worker under 18
  • Pressure to work faster
  • Stressful conditions

In a case where a teen work injury results in death, parents or other beneficiaries may be entitled to collect workers’ compensation death benefits.

Contact our workers’ compensation lawyers at The Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Teen Falls Into Wood Chipper, Dies During First Day of Work, Staff Report, ABC7 News

More Blog Entries:

OSHA: Lumber Mills Repeatedly Expose Workers to Danger, Dec. 13, 2015, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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