Understand your rights after a work injury caused by inadequate training
In North Carolina, as in other states, the foundation of a robust and efficient workforce is rooted in adequate training. Without proper training, not only are workers exposed to a higher risk of injury, but businesses also suffer from diminished productivity.
The interconnection between training and workplace safety is pivotal; a lack of training can lead to a domino effect of negative outcomes, beginning with increased workplace incidents. These incidents often result in injuries that could have been prevented with proper education and safety protocols.
Moreover, when workers are not thoroughly trained, their lack of knowledge and skills can impede their efficiency and effectiveness, leading to a reduction in overall productivity. This, in turn, can have a substantial economic impact on businesses in North Carolina, manifesting in increased costs associated with workers’ compensation claims, lost work time and the potential for higher insurance premiums.
Amidst these challenges, it is crucial for workers to understand their rights and for businesses to recognize the gravity of their responsibilities.
If you or someone you know has been injured on the job in North Carolina and suspect it was due to insufficient training, reaching out to a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can be the first step toward safeguarding your rights and setting a precedent for a safer workplace for all.
How common are work injuries and fatalities in North Carolina?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, there were approximately 67,700 nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses in North Carolina, an incidence rate of 2.2 cases per 100 full-time workers. While this may seem high, it’s actually significantly below the national average rate of 2.7.
Of those injuries, 40,500 were more severe in nature, requiring time off work. The top industries where workers suffered injuries leading to missed days of work in 2021 included:
- Trade, transportation and utilities (15,200 injuries)
- Manufacturing (7,900 injuries)
- Education and health care (7,400 injuries)
Surprisingly, construction workers only suffered about 2,600 injuries leading to time off work that year, fewer even than the 2,800 suffered by leisure and hospitality employees.
That same year, the BLS also reported that 179 workers died from work-related injuries. The top causes included:
- Transportation accidents (34.6% of total fatal injuries)
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments (21.2% of total fatal injuries)
- Slips, trips and falls (16.2% of total fatal injuries)
- Contact with objects and equipment (14% of total fatal injuries)
While the overall work fatalities in 2021 decreased slightly from the previous year, the reality is that the vast majority of these deaths and injuries were preventable.
How do we know this?
Well, the National Safety Council (NSC) keeps track of annual workplace deaths in the U.S. and provides data on how many of them were preventable.
In 2021, the NSC concluded that there were 4,472 preventable workplace deaths across the U.S., which equates to a preventable injury death rate of 3.1 per 100,000 workers, up from 3.0 in 2020. The industries with the highest number of preventable deaths were construction, transportation and warehousing.
As a point of reference, the BLS reported that there were 5,190 total fatal work injuries nationwide that year.
This means that according to these numbers, an astounding 86% of work-related deaths in 2021 were preventable, which is one of the many reasons why worker training is so essential.
Who determines what training workers in different industries need?
The training that workers receive in various industries across the U.S. and North Carolina is decided by a mix of organizations and rules.
Government agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set basic safety standards that all employers must follow, and state-level departments add their own specific requirements. Additionally, industry groups offer guidance to ensure that workers know the latest best practices and technologies for their field.
Unions also negotiate training needs to make sure their members can perform their jobs in safe work environments. But ultimately, it’s the employers who must make sure their training meets these standards, and they often design additional programs for the specific needs of their business.
Common examples of inadequate training in the workplace
The amount and type of training a worker needs varies according to the industry they work in and their job responsibilities, but below are 10 common examples of inadequate training:
- Lack of proper safety training. Workers may be unaware of how to operate machinery safely, which can lead to accidents like crushing or severing of limbs.
- Insufficient emergency response training. Employees may not know how to act during an emergency, resulting in chaos and possible injuries or deaths.
- Incomplete hazard communication training. Without knowledge of chemical hazards, workers can suffer exposure to toxic substances, causing health issues or death.
- Inadequate training on personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees might use PPE incorrectly, leading to exposure to dangerous conditions and potentially fatal injuries.
- Inadequate ergonomic training. Workers might not know how to adjust their workstations, leading to repetitive strain injuries or chronic musculoskeletal problems that require medical treatment and time off work.
- Inadequate fall protection training. Workers at heights may fall if they’re not properly trained on how to use safety harnesses and other fall prevention systems.
- Lack of training in electrical safety. Employees working with or around electricity can suffer electrocution or explosions due to a lack of understanding of electrical hazards.
- Poor training on equipment maintenance. Improper maintenance can cause machinery to malfunction, possibly causing accidents with dangerous consequences.
- Insufficient training on food safety. In the food industry, this can lead to contamination and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
- Insufficient driver safety training. Without proper training, drivers of company vehicles might engage in unsafe driving practices, leading to accidents and potentially fatal injuries.
The examples provided underscore the critical need for comprehensive training across all industries to mitigate risks and protect workers. Without exception, investing in proper training is not just a matter of regulatory compliance but a fundamental aspect of operational integrity and worker welfare.
How can proper training reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries and deaths?
Comprehensive training that includes instructions on how to use equipment and PPE correctly empowers workers with a keen awareness of potential dangers and the skills needed to navigate them safely. They’re also better prepared to respond effectively to emergencies, potentially saving lives.
Additionally, by understanding the best practices for their job duties, employees can avoid taking unnecessary risks, leading to the entire workplace operating more safely as everyone is more likely to follow protocols that maintain a safe environment.
This collective awareness and adherence to safety practices dramatically reduce the likelihood of accidents and the severity of injuries if they occur, ultimately creating a culture of safety that protects everyone.
What other positive benefits are associated with proper employee training?
Proper employee training extends well beyond enhancing safety. Here are several other positive benefits associated with well-implemented training programs:
- Increased productivity. Properly trained employees work more efficiently and effectively, with a clear understanding of their roles and the tasks at hand.
- Improved quality of work. Training improves the skills and knowledge base of employees, leading to a higher quality of work and fewer errors.
- Enhanced employee morale. When employees feel competent and know that their employer invests in their development, it boosts their confidence and job satisfaction.
- Better employee retention. Companies that offer comprehensive training programs tend to retain employees longer, as training is perceived as an added benefit and a sign of employer commitment.
- Improved adaptability. Training can help employees adapt to changes within the company, such as the introduction of new technologies, processes or strategies.
- More innovation. Well-trained employees are more likely to contribute innovative ideas that can improve business processes and create new opportunities.
- Reduced need for supervision. Employees who receive thorough training may require less direct supervision, freeing up management to focus on strategic initiatives.
- Legal compliance. Regular training helps ensure that employees are up to date with industry regulations and legal requirements, reducing the risk of non-compliance.
- Enhanced company image. Companies known for their commitment to employee development are often viewed more favorably by potential employees, customers and partners.
- Competitive advantage. A well-trained workforce can give a company a significant competitive advantage in terms of service quality, operational efficiency and agility in the marketplace.
Investing in employee training is a strategic approach that yields dividends not only in operational excellence but also in fostering a positive and progressive corporate culture.
What is an employer’s legal responsibility for workplace training?
An employer’s legal responsibility for workplace training is typically mandated by national and regional occupational safety and health regulations, labor laws, and specific industry guidelines. While the exact legal obligations can vary by country and region, these are some general responsibilities that employers often must fulfill:
- New employee orientation. Employers are required to provide training and orientation for new employees regarding safety practices relevant to their new roles.
- Competency. Employers are responsible for ensuring that employees are competent to perform their tasks safely through appropriate training and supervision.
- Emergency procedures. Employers must provide training on emergency response procedures, including evacuation plans, first aid, fire safety and the use of emergency equipment.
- Record keeping. There is often a legal requirement to maintain records of training sessions, participant attendance and the content covered, including dates and trainer qualifications.
- Hazard identification and training. Employers are required to conduct regular hazard assessments in the workplace and provide training that addresses the identified risks.
- Proper use of equipment. Employees must be trained on the correct use of work equipment, including PPE, machinery and tools, as well as the handling of materials.
- Regular updates and refresher courses. As regulations change or new risks emerge, employers are responsible for providing ongoing and up-to-date training to all relevant staff.
- Accessibility. Training should be accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities or those who require language assistance.
Failure to meet these responsibilities can lead to legal consequences, including fines, penalties and increased liability in the event of workplace accidents or injuries. Employers are therefore motivated not only by compliance but also by the desire to maintain a safe and healthy workplace, which can contribute to overall productivity and employee well-being.
What are my rights after a work injury due to inadequate training?
In North Carolina, most employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they’re injured on the job. These benefits are designed to provide financial assistance and support to employees, including:
- Medical expenses related to the injury,
- A portion of lost wages while they’re unable to work, and
- Vocational rehabilitation for job retraining, if necessary.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that employees are usually covered regardless of who was at fault for their injury.
However, there are situations where you might consider suing your employer outside of this system. This might be the case if you can prove that your employer’s intentional actions or egregious negligence directly caused your injury. For instance, if an employer deliberately removed safety equipment that led to an injury, they may be held liable in a court of law.
Keep in mind that suing your employer in North Carolina can be complex due to the exclusivity provision of workers’ compensation, which generally prevents you from bringing a personal injury lawsuit against your employer for a workplace injury.
To succeed in a lawsuit against your employer, you would need to provide clear evidence of fault, which usually requires the assistance of an experienced attorney.
When should an injured worker pursue a personal injury lawsuit instead of workers’ comp?
Deciding whether it’s worth suing instead of filing for workers’ comp depends on the specifics of the case and several key factors:
- Employer’s conduct. If the injury was caused by the employer’s intentional or grossly negligent conduct, a lawsuit might be more appropriate.
- Extent of injury. A civil lawsuit may be worth pursuing for severe or permanent injuries that impact your quality of life beyond what workers’ comp can remedy.
- Third-party involvement. If a third party (not your employer or coworker) is responsible for the injury, you might sue that party while still claiming workers’ comp.
- Workers’ comp denial. If your workers’ comp claim is unjustly denied, you may consider a lawsuit as an alternative route for compensation.
- Legal advice. Consultation with a lawyer can provide insights into the viability of a lawsuit in your specific situation.
It’s important to note that such lawsuits can offer a wider range of compensation than workers’ compensation claims, including damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages.
If you’ve been injured at work and are considering a personal injury lawsuit, it’s essential to discuss your case with a knowledgeable work injury attorney before proceeding. They can help determine the strength of your case against your employer and whether pursuing a lawsuit is a better alternative than accepting workers’ comp benefits.
Get help from an experienced North Carolina work injury attorney
Investing in proper worker training is not only a legal requirement but also a critical step in safeguarding the well-being of employees. If you’ve suffered an injury at work due to inadequate training in the Charlotte area, know that you have rights and options for compensation.
At Wilder Pantazis Law Group, our dedicated team has more than 85 years of combined experience. We’re committed to advocating for the rights of injured North Carolina workers and will guide you through every step of the legal process to secure the benefits and compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more.
Employer-reported workplace injuries and illnesses in North Carolina — 2021 : Southeast Information Office : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, December 8). www.bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/regions/southeast/news-release/workplaceinjuriesandillnesses_northcarolina.htm#:~:text=Private%20industry%20employers%20reported%2067%2C700
Fatal Occupational Injuries in North Carolina — 2020 : Southeast Information Office : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, February 22). www.bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/regions/southeast/news-release/fatalworkinjuries_northcarolina.htm
Work Safety Introduction – Injury Facts. (2017). Injury Facts. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/work-overview/work-safety-introduction/