Food processing plant employees operate equipment that mixes, cooks, or processes ingredients used in the manufacture of food products. Workers usually stand for the majority of their shifts while operating machines or observing the production process. Loading, unloading, or cleaning equipment may require lifting, bending, and reaching.
If a food processing plant worker is injured on the job, he or she may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including paid medical care and replacement of lost wages. Unfortunately, many injured workers are unaware of the benefits that South Carolina law provides through workers’ compensation insurance. It is easy for an injured food plant worker to lose benefits that an employer or insurance administrator is reluctant to pay.
Our food processing plant injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm help injured workers in South Carolina seek the full benefits provided by law. From our offices in Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Clinton, SC, our experienced and determined attorneys have helped injured workers from across South Carolina for more than 50 years.
Our firm takes pride in our track record of success as we help South Carolinians move forward with their lives after life-changing injuries. Our attorneys have obtained millions of dollars in compensation for clients employed at manufacturing and processing plants. While every case stands on its own, our record of settlements underscores the depth of our experience handling these types of cases.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury while on the job at a South Carolina food processing plant and you are having difficulty obtain workers’ compensation benefits, contact Joye Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with one of our friendly and knowledgeable attorneys. There is no obligation to you. When you hire us, we do not get paid until you do.
Food Processing Plant Work in South Carolina
Food, beverages and tobacco products processing is among the top 10 manufacturing sectors in South Carolina. Central South Carolina is considered a food services hot spot, with more than 45 food processing facilities and nearly 6,000 workers employed in food manufacturing.
Food manufacturing facilities are typically large, open-floor areas with loud machinery. Machinery and tools are often sharp enough to cut through bones of animal carcasses. Workers are frequently exposed to high temperatures for cooking food and cold environments for goods that need to be refrigerated.
To reduce the risks of injuries, workers are required to wear protective clothing, such as hearing protection, respirators, gloves, heavy aprons and nonslip shoes.
A study at Emory University found that food industry workers in food production, processing, distribution, storage and retail have a 60 percent higher rate of occupational injury or illness than workers in other industries.
Types of Injuries Among Food Processing Plant Employees
Among the many hazards that food processing plant workers face, the most prevalent are slips, falls and cuts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The common injuries we see among food processing plant employees include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). Falls can easily lead to a blow to the head, which can cause a concussion (a mild TBI) or a more serious brain injury.
- Fractures. Falls and being crushed by or caught in food processing equipment and machinery can break bones in hands, arms, and legs.
- Back and spinal cord injuries. Back injuries are another common result of falls and may also occur due to overexertion or repetitive lifting, bending and reaching. Damage to nerve tissue or swelling or compression caused by damage to spinal discs can impinge upon the spinal cord and cause mobility and sensation injuries.
- Soft tissue injuries. Sprains, strains and tears in muscles, tendons and ligaments can occur in slip-and-fall accidents, machinery crush or caught-in accidents, and from years of repetitive motion stress.
- Repetitive motion injuries. These injuries develop gradually because food processing workers perform the same physical movements repeatedly during a shift over many years.
- Burns. Food processing workers can suffer burns if they come into contact with heating elements, steam, or scalding liquids as part of food preparation, as well as from other machinery parts.
- Hearing loss. Long-term exposure to loud machinery and equipment can cause food plant workers to suffer hearing loss, especially if they are not provided proper hearing protection.
- Respiratory illness. Long-term inhaling of certain flavorings added to processed foods and beverages can lead to bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible type of lung disease in which a person’s airways become scarred and constricted. The condition is known as “popcorn lung” because it was first identified among workers in a microwave popcorn manufacturing plant.
- Occupational disease. Numerous conditions in food processing plants can lead to illness. Workers can develop occupational diseases from exposure to bacteria and parasites in raw foods. Time spent in freezing units can lead to cold stress and potentially hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Even the moderately cold work conditions encountered in refrigerated food storage units pose health and safety risks for employees.
Large food processing plants are big operations in which any kind of accident can occur. Transportation accidents involving a forklift, truck or other vehicle on a job site are a leading cause of workplace injuries. Any manufacturing plant can be the site of a fire or explosion, structural collapse, employee or intruder violence, etc., that causes occupational injury that should be covered by workers’ compensation benefits.
‘Partial Disability’ and Food Processing Plant Employees
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program that covers most employees in South Carolina. A food processing plant worker who is injured while on the job should qualify for benefits that include payment of all medical bills and a portion of his or her lost income.
A worker becomes eligible for payment of lost wages once he or she has been unable to return to work for seven workdays. Temporary total disability payments (TTD) are two thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage.
An injured worker would receive TTD benefits until he or she was able to return to work at some level.
A worker may be cleared to return to light duty work before fully recovered. Because they have been cleared to do some amount of work, they must take a “light duty” job if their employer offers one, which may pay less. This worker should then be eligible to receive temporary partial disability benefits (TPD), which are two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s wages before the injury and what the worker earns after being injured.
A worker who has reached “maximum medical improvement” and is approved for a return to work may have a permanent partial disability (PPD). The SC workers’ compensation system pays disability benefits according to a schedule for permanent disability/disfigurement compensation. Examples include:
- 300 weeks of pay for losing up to 49% of the use of your back
- 220 weeks for losing an arm
- 195 weeks for losing a leg
- 140 weeks for losing vision in an eye (or losing the eye)
- 65 weeks of payments for losing a thumb
- 32 weeks for losing a big toe
- 10 weeks for losing any other toe.
Workers who cannot return to any kind of work can receive total disability benefits, which is two-thirds of their average weekly wage prior to injury for up to 500 weeks (approximately 9.6 years). There is no time limit on a total permanent disability due to brain damage or paraplegic or tetraplegic paralysis.
As you can see, calculating the benefits owed to an injured worker can become complicated, depending on the extent of the injury.
In some cases, it is advantageous for the injured worker to choose to accept a lump-sum workers’ compensation settlement. A permanently disabled worker may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, which do not run out but would impact workers’ comp payments.
These are the kinds of calculations and decisions that an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you with after a serious food processing plant injury. We can do calculations on multiple scenarios for you and determine how to pursue the maximum compensation available to you and your family.
Our Lawyers Help Injured Food Processing Plant Employees in South Carolina
Because of the numerous types of workers it serves and the possible workplace accidents and injuries that must be considered, the South Carolina workers’ compensation system has become a large bureaucracy.
A qualified workers’ compensation lawyer who has worked with the S.C. workers’ compensation system for many years can guide you through the process and offer the best chance of a successful outcome to a workers’ comp claim.
Joye Law Firm can review the circumstances of the injury you suffered in a South Carolina food processing plant and help you obtain the maximum workers’ comp benefit available. If your claim has already been denied, we can work to strengthen it and appeal the decision.
Contact Our Columbia, SC, Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
The experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm have the skill, experience, and resources necessary to tackle the most complex food processing plant accident cases. We do more than help clients pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Our aim is to help you regain your quality of life.
Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about how we can help you. In addition to Columbia, we have offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Clinton, S.C., and can travel to meet wherever is convenient for you.