It can be challenging to get an accurate read on how safe or dangerous it is to work in North Carolina. For most people, all they have to rely on is anecdotes. Do they know people who have been injured in a particular industry in a particular place? Have they heard rumors that this business or manager is particularly safety conscious or tends to put their employees in danger?
When it comes to the safety of the people going to work, this is just inadequate. People need to know the level of danger and the type of danger they can expect when they go to work.
To help educate people on what safety and danger in the workplace looks like in North Carolina, we’ve provided some of the facts and statistics found in the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) Occupational Safety and Health Annual Comparison Report from the most recent year of its release (2016) and provided some of the significant findings within.
North Carolina Is Safer Than Much of the Country
The first point to make is good news. North Carolina is significantly safer than many other states. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, North Carolina is among just 13 states that have fewer injuries and illnesses from the workplace than the national average.
The actual numbers, though, are still daunting. 71,000 work-related illnesses and injuries were not fatal in 2016. This translated to 2.5 such incidents in 100 employees. In other words, 2.5% of all workers in North Carolina suffered from workplace injuries or illnesses (although the severity of these incidents varied).
Industries That Are Safer and Less Safe
Everyone knows that some industries are safer to work in than others. No one would assume that an office worker is in as much danger as a firefighter, for instance. However, how do the numbers break down according to NCDOL?
The industries that saw the lowest rates of days away from work, job transfers, and job restrictions included the financial sector (at the lowest rate with 0.5 individuals per 100 workers), information, and professional and business services. Slightly higher rates were found in construction (a surprisingly low 2.2 per 100), mining, state government, and “other services.”
More serious were leisure and hospitality (2.8 per 100), trade, transportation, and utilities (3.1 per 100), and education and health services (3.3 per 100).
This list, however, is somewhat incomplete, since the mining numbers are likely so low because of the lack of mining within the state.
Where Businesses Are Failing Employees Most
The NCDOL also details the most common severe violations found in different types of business. In construction, for instance, many of the most common severe violations are in the most critical areas. Businesses were consistently failing workers in fall protection, the use of ladders, the use of scaffolds, and providing enough safety training.
For general industries, the violations often had to do with machine guarding, communicating to workers about hazards in training and writing, and maintaining tools.
In the public sector, there were similar violations regarding machine guarding and hazards communications. There was also not enough protective equipment available for workers.
Fatalities at Work
Injuries due to work are always tragic, mainly when they are severe but even worse is when an accident results in a death.
North Carolina had 48 deaths in 2016, according to the NCDOL report. The main areas these occurred in were, in order of number: struck by an object (17), falls (14), crushed by object or equipment (6), and electrocution (4). There were also seven workplace deaths that were not categorized but include fires and explosions.
The total number of deaths represents a significant jump from the most recent comparable years (40 in 2014 and 42 in 2015). There were more deaths in each category over the immediately previous year in every category except electrocutions.
While North Carolina is doing better than much of the nation at keeping its workers safe, workers across the state still suffer injuries in workplace accidents every day. It is important that all workers understand their rights when it comes to a workplace accident. Many wrongly believe that in order to get compensation, their employer must have been negligent or careless in some way. This is simply not true. Worker’s compensation coverage exists to help injured employees get back on their feet after an accident. You aren’t suing your employer, you’re claiming benefits from insurance coverage that is there to help you. If you’ve been hurt on the job, you are well within your rights to inquire about these benefits that may be available to you.