An accident in a manufacturing facility can quickly change a worker’s life. When a manufacturing accident happens, one of the most pressing questions that a worker has is, “Who will pay for my injuries and lost wages?”
The following reviews statistics on types of manufacturing accidents, causes of manufacturing accidents, and what to do following a workplace injury in South Carolina.
Statistics on Manufacturing Accidents
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 341 fatal manufacturing accidents recorded in the United States in a single recent year. According to Highest Incident Rates of Total Nonfatal Occupational Injury and Illness Cases, 2014, also published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing industries with the highest rates of injuries include travel trailer and camper manufacturing, mobile home manufacturing, truss manufacturing, prefabricated wood building manufacturing, and truck trailer manufacturing.
Types of Manufacturing Accidents in the Workplace
Injuries in the manufacturing industry may be more common, as well as more serious, due to the fact that manufacturing employees often work with large pieces of equipment, heavy machinery, and dangerous objects and chemicals.
Examples of manufacturing accidents that a worker may be involved in include:
- Slip-and-fall accidents. Regardless of the industry in which one works, slip-and-fall accidents are common. When surfaces are slippery, raised walking surfaces are not properly protected, or when walking areas are filled with clutter or debris, slip-and-fall accidents are more likely to happen.
- Repetitive motion and overexertion injuries. Using the same muscles again and again can lead to repetitive motion and overexertion injuries. This is true even for workers who are not lifting heavy things. For example, those who work in sewing and textile manufacturing or those who work on assembly lines may be at risk of repetitive motion injuries.
- Caught in machinery accidents. The manufacturing industry is rife with large objects and heavy machinery. One of the most devastating types of accident is when a worker becomes caught in one of these pieces of machinery. An accident such as this can lead to amputation, a crushed limb, broken bones, a head or traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, or death.
- Being struck by an object. An object may be dropped from a height or otherwise improperly controlled or restrained, resulting in a worker being hit. Depending on the weight of the object and the force with which the worker is hit, this accident type could leave a worker permanently impaired and unable to ever work again.
- Exposure to dangerous chemicals or materials. Many manufacturing industries store, use, or manufacture chemicals or materials that are hazardous to human health if exposure occurs. A worker who is exposed to such materials may develop a host of complications, ranging from burn injuries, increased risk of cancer, lung disease, asthma, breathing problems, and more.
Top Causes of Manufacturing Accidents
Some manufacturing accidents and injuries happen as a direct consequence of the work being performed. For example, a worker on an assembly line may develop a repetitive strain injury based on the very nature of the job. Without proper rest and breaks, such an injury may be unavoidable.
Other accidents and injuries, however, are completely avoidable. In fact, slips and trips, falls, being caught in machinery, being struck by an object, and most other accident types are all preventable. Too often, these injuries occur because of a safety violation or hazardous conditions. If an employer does not properly store dangerous chemicals, for example, workers in the facility may be at risk of exposure and subsequent injury. Or, if an employer does not follow scaffolding standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a worker may be at an increased risk of falling.
Of course, the employer is not always to blame. Sometimes a third party may be at fault.
Tips for Preventing Accidents at Manufacturing Facilities
The good news is that most manufacturing facility accidents and other workplace injuries in South Carolina are preventable. To help keep everyone safe, employers should:
- Make sure that all employees have proper safety equipment.
- Ensure that a facility is maintained in a safe and hazard-free condition.
- Provide proper training to all employees.
- Maintain equipment and machinery so that it is in safe working order.
- Supervise employees as jobs are being performed.
I Have Been Hurt at Work, Now What?
The workers’ compensation system in South Carolina is a no-fault system. This means that when a workplace accident occurs, employees are entitled to benefits assuming that their employers carry workers’ compensation insurance and the accident was work-related.
Compensation is available regardless of fault. An employee does not have to prove the fault of the employer in order to recover benefits, nor can a worker be barred from recovering benefits due to the worker’s fault in virtually all instances. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission reports that every South Carolina employee “with certain notable exceptions” is presumed to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
However, the no-fault system of workers’ compensation insurance also has its limits. Employees are generally barred from filing a lawsuit directly against their employer, even when fault does play a role in the occurrence of an accident.
In some cases, an employee can step outside of the no-fault system and file a lawsuit, but usually not against the employer. A lawsuit may be filed against a negligent third party whose actions caused or significantly contributed to the accident.
Contact an Experienced South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Knowing your rights after a manufacturing accident can be confusing. But unless you take action quickly, you may be barred from recovering benefits under the workers’ compensation system or filing a lawsuit.