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Efforts to protect North Carolina workers are paying off, as new figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the state’s nonfatal workplace illness and injury rate in private industries remains well below the national average.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and operates most states’ workplace health and safety programs.

However, North Carolina is a State-Plan state, meaning that its OSHA programs are operated by the state rather than the federal government. State Plans are overseen by OSHA and are required to be equally effective in protecting workers by preventing injuries, illnesses, and deaths on the job. North Carolina’s OSHA Division conducts free safety training, education, and health consults for workers statewide.

These efforts are certainly making a difference, judging by recent statistics:

  • North Carolina private industry employers reported 2.2 nonfatal illness/injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2022, compared to a national average of 2.7
  • The 2021 rate was identical to 2022, showing no increase from year to year
  • State and local government workers reported 3.2 cases per full-time worker, compared to a national average of 4.9
  • North Carolina was one of just 12 states in 2021 to have a private industry TRC (total recordable cases) rate significantly less than the national average
  • 60 out of North Carolina’s 100 counties had no work-related fatalities in 2022

While these figures are encouraging, they’re also misleading.

Workplace injuries still happen every day. As an American employee, you have the legal right to a safe workplace. If you need assistance filing a workers’ comp claim or feel your employer is taking advantage of you after an injury, a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can help. 

Are North Carolina Workers Still at Risk?

Many North Carolina workplaces still conduct inadequate safety training. While the state’s OSHA Division means well, the reality is that workplace safety inspections here have fallen by more than 50 percent over the last decade.

The division conducted fewer than 2,000 inspections in fiscal year 2022, or one for every 172 employers. And while workplace injuries and illnesses have fallen, fatalities have been increasing since 2018, with a brief decrease in 2022 due to the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Fines for safety violations were also previously much lower than the national average. In 2021, the average penalty was $1,892 compared to the national average of $3,315. Fortunately, the state doubled the maximum penalties for safety violations in late 2022.

The two incidents causing the largest number of the 63 non-COVID-related deaths in 2022 were struck-by and falls from elevation. Unsurprisingly, nearly a third of those were in the construction industry

Lack of training and inspections exposes workers to a higher risk of injury. Research shows that 98 percent of workplace accidents could be prevented with proper safety training. 

How Do I Get Workers’ Comp in North Carolina?

One of your most crucial rights as a worker in the United States is the right to workers’ compensation. Every company in North Carolina with more than three employees is required to carry enough workers’ comp insurance, and violators can be criminally prosecuted.

Workers’ comp replaces lost wages and covers medical expenses after a workplace injury, even if the worker is partially or wholly at fault. The payments depend on the severity of the workplace injuries and may last weeks, months, or a lifetime.

The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act takes care of medical bills and provides two-thirds of the injured worker’s weekly pay beginning when they are away from work for more than seven days. It is a no-fault system, protecting both workers and employers. Receiving workers’ comp usually means that the worker cannot sue their employer for work-related losses.  

The decline in illness and injury rates in North Carolina has been reflected in the insurance premiums, which have decreased every year since 2016. 

Subsequently, the number of workers’ compensation claims has also decreased steadily. For example, in the fiscal year 2021-2022, more than 57,000 claims were opened, while the following year saw nearly 5,000 less. The number of medical bills processed between these two years decreased by almost half, from 1,156 in 21-22 to 630 in 22-23.  

These decreasing numbers, while hopeful, should not lull employers or workers into a false sense of security; after all, inspections are down, and fatalities are up. It’s important to know what to do if you’re injured at work in North Carolina.

Do I Need a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?

The first thing you should do after any work-related injury is seek medical treatment. Tell your doctor that your injury was sustained at work and notify your manager. According to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, you must also provide written notice of the injury to your employer within 30 days. Carefully follow your doctor’s post-injury instructions to ensure you maintain eligibility for your workers’ comp benefits.

Receiving your benefits is a straightforward process much of the time, but things can go wrong – filing your paperwork improperly, facing backlash from your employer, and denial of benefits. A qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can ensure you fulfill all the requirements to receive the benefits you deserve. If your employer refuses to cooperate and jeopardizes these benefits, a workers’ compensation attorney can help.

The Whitley Law Firm has the experience and insider knowledge to help you navigate North Carolina workers comp claims. Whether you need to file a workers comp lawsuit or simply get assistance with your claim, we care about obtaining the rights you worked for and will work tirelessly on your behalf to get them. Please call us today at (800) 785-5000 or get started online with a free, no-obligation case review

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