Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler

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Workers hurt in explosion are entitled to workers' compensation

When an explosion occurs at a workplace, the problem is generally approached on two levels. First, the injured workers in a North Carolina work accident or elsewhere are taken to safety and treated medically. The medical care of the injured is thus first priority. In that connection, each worker or his or her family should be fully informed of the procedures for collecting benefits under the workers' compensation program. That involves the filing of a workers' compensation claim form.

If the employer is not assiduous in providing them, workers or their families should obtain the forms from the personnel department or their supervisors and file them. When a worker is injured in a workplace accident he or she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. This includes payment of necessary and reasonable medical expenses. It also includes payment of prescribed wage benefits where there is a medical disability.

The second focus after an explosion is an investigation by safety authorities to determine the causes and whether safety rules were violated. This is done by OSHA and any equivalent state agencies. The investigation generally can take up to six months and can result in fines and measures to increase safety at the plant.

In a recent explosion at an Amgen plant in San Francisco two employees of the biotech company were injured but released from the hospital after receiving treatment. The explosion reportedly occurred from a chemical reaction caused by mixing certain cleaning agents. It blew out the windows to the lab and caused extensive damage. The company was cited and fined as recently as last May for improperly storing hazardous substances after another fire from flammable liquids.

In some cases, an interesting workers' compensation problem arises in North Carolina or other states. Sometimes, workers are treated for fumes and released. However, intensive follow-up may be required in the form or specialized evaluation and treatment by an inhalation injuries expert. The workers' compensation carrier may react skeptically, and may typically try to rush them prematurely back to work. This raises a conflict that sometimes is difficult to resolve.

Source: San Mateo Daily Journal, Three injured in Amgen explosion, lab damaged, No author, Jan. 10, 2014

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