Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are currently searching for clues following a fatal accident at a metals plant in a southern suburb earlier this month, the second fatality at that particular location in just 25 months.
A paint factory located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago was the scene of a terrifying industrial accident last week that sent several workers to the hospital and left investigators with a multitude of unanswered questions.
When a person is injured on the job, they often want to know what will happen if they file for workers’ compensation benefits. At the Law Office of Millon and Peskin, we answer this question for our clients on a regular basis. But another question is: “Why should I file for workers’ compensation benefits?” And unfortunately, often a person with this question will never seek an answer. These are the workers who, for whatever reason, are compelled to “tough it out” when they are injured on the job. Sadly, they are often making a choice that costs them more than they realize.
If you asked the average worker today if he or she feels safe at their workplace, the answer is usually “Yes”. Even for those who work in more hazardous jobs, such as construction and mining, we often believe that we are less likely to be injured on-the-job today than in the past. The reality is, however, that despite increasing awareness of workplace hazards and advancements in safety technology, the number of workers injured, sickened or killed annually is staggering. A May 2012 article by Jim Morris for The Center for Public Integrity gave this chilling statistic: in 2009 alone, more Americans were killed on the job than in the entire nine-years of the Iraq war.
When a worker in Illinois is injured on the job, he or she often is eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. State law in Illinois requires most employers to provide such coverage for their eligible employees. But as we explored in a recent article, the reality is that sadly some employers’ flout the law. Whether they allow coverage to lapse, never obtained coverage, or simply fail to pay awarded benefits, injured workers are the ones who suffer the most. Such workers, however, may not be without justice or options. As discussed in a previous article, employers in violation of the law may be fined and even jailed for failure to provide coverage. More importantly, such employers make themselves vulnerable to expensive lawsuits. While the Workers’ Compensation Act sheilds employers in most cases from lawsuits by injured workers, noncompliance may negate this protection. As such, employees may be able to seek a far greater amount for their injuries than would otherwise have been paid out by workers’ compensation coverage. Another possible option for workers without coverage, and the subject of this article, is the Illinois’ Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund.
For a worker, a job-related injury often makes them aware of how little they know about their rights. Not until they are hurt do many employees realize that what they’ve assumed about their benefits may not be entirely accurate. It’s often a shock to find that coverage and care for their injuries is hard to achieve, limited in scope, and at times, nonexistent. There are many aspects to the workers’ compensation system with which all employees should familiarize themselves. However, the most essential is this: does your employer carry workers’ compensation insurance? For Illinois workers, the good news is that most employers are required by law to carry some form of workers’ compensation insurance. Very few exemptions exist for employers to not provide their employees with coverage. But the truth remains, not all business owners comply with the law. It’s distressing for an employee who is injured on the job to find out too late that their employer has failed to obtain or maintain their coverage. Fortunately, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission provides guidance and assistance for workers whose employers are in noncompliance.
Be thankful the holidays featuring turkey are nearly a year away, otherwise a recent accident at the Jennie-O turkey plant might inspire you to make it a tofurkey Thanksgiving. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited the Jennie-O Turkey Store with eleven safety violations. The citations came after an inspection of the plant which was triggered by a gruesome accident in July 2011. In the incident, an employee’s arm was severed below the shoulder after becoming entangled in an energized turkey shackle. The worker was working alone in a confined space, and after the accidental amputation, had to travel down a flight of stairs and across a production floor by himself to obtain help from a co-worker. Predominant among the citations were violations of safety standards for working in confined spaces. Such working conditions are present across a variety of industries and professions, and carry with it a number of safety concerns.