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New OSHA report critical of injured worker treatment

A recent report prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that despite the availability of means such as workers' compensation to assist them, injured workers still face long-term income losses and other economic setbacks that the government agency concludes are unacceptable.

The report, "Adding Inequality to Injury: The Cost of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job," tracks income and expense data for seriously injured workers and finds that they are losing out on both fronts: not only are such workers likely to make 15 percent less on average over the decade that passes after their injury, but they are also likely to have to bear half of the costs associated with their injury.

The report is replete with disturbing findings. For example:

  • Changes to workers' compensation programs have made obtaining workers' compensation benefits, measured in wage replacement and medical expenses, more difficult to obtain. At the same time, the workers' compensation cost burden on employers has decreased to only about 20 percent of the overall cost, which means that workers are shouldering more of that burden.
  • Misclassification of employees as contractors continues to be a problem. In North Carolina, for example, data suggests that about one-third of construction workers are identified as contractors when they should be categorized as employees.
  • Less than 40 percent of workers who are eligible for workers' compensation benefits actually apply for those benefits. The vast majority of workers who suffer from work-related illnesses receive no benefits at all.

One takeaway from the OSHA report is that aside from the need for greater emphasis on preventing worker injuries, more attention needs to be paid to worker benefit eligibility and to seeing that benefit claims are actually pursued. In this respect, securing the assistance of a workers compensation law firm may be a key element in ensuring that those eligible for benefits actually receive them.

Source: EHS Today, "Adding Insult to Injury: Statistics are Workers with the Tears Washed Off," Sandy Smith, March 4, 2015 

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