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Fatalities, severe injuries at work may be on the rise

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is concerned that workers in South Carolina and around the country are sustaining on-the-job injuries that are not being reported. Starting in 2015, the agency has changed its reporting requirements. In the past, a prompt report was only required in the case of a fatality. Now, employers are supposed to report serious injuries within 24 hours. However, OSHA says that it believes, based in part on workers' compensation reports, that half or more of all serious injuries are going unreported. Most of the reports it received in the past year were from large companies, and it may be that small and medium-sized companies do not realize that the requirements have changed.

Even worse, the number of fatalities is up in comparison to previous years, and the number of injuries is high. In 2014, 4,821 workers died. Older workers are particularly vulnerable with nearly 1,700 deaths for those at or over the age of 55.

More than 10,000 work-related severe injuries were reported in 2015. These resulted in more than 2,000 amputations and over 7,600 hospitalizations. Food processing, warehousing and structure, and general freight trucking all have high injury rates. Roadway accidents kill the largest number of workers, and ergonomic injuries force many others out of the workplace.

Just as some employers may not know about new reporting regulations, not all employees are clear about how to seek compensation if they are injured on the job. In addition, some employers may try to intimidate employees into not filing for workers' compensation benefits or may threaten retaliation such as demotion or termination. The assistance of an attorney can be advisable in these types of situations.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Private Construction Industry Deaths Jumped 9% in 2014", April 22, 2016

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