Workplace injuries are common in New Jersey. A relatively small percentage of these injuries prove to be fatal. However, even non-fatal injuries can carry serious consequences for the worker and his or her family.
The injury may lead to many days of missed work – and income. The injury may also result in a permanent disability that keeps a worker from returning to a previous job or from working in any other field.
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, there were 92 fatal occupational injuries that occurred in our state during the most recent year for which stats are available.
The four industries with the highest fatality numbers were:
In that same year, there were 106,700 non-fatal workplace injuries in New Jersey, including 59,100 that required a worker to miss days from work or require a job transfer or restriction.
The four industries with the highest injury counts were:
Fortunately, many workers in New Jersey are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, which can pay for medical expenses and up to 70 percent of a worker’s lost wages while he or she is recovering from the injury.
In some cases, the worker may also pursue a third-party liability claim against a non-employer whose negligence contributed to the injury.
Eight Most Common Causes of Injuries at Work in New Jersey
Many different types of injuries can occur in the workplace in New Jersey. All occupations involve some degree of injury risk.
For instance, a construction worker may face risk of brain injury, spinal cord injury or fractures in falls from ladders, scaffolding, roofs or other heights. A nurse or orderly, on the other hand, may face risks of musculoskeletal disorders from lifting or moving patients. Even an office worker may face a risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitively sitting at a computer and typing.
Every year, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety compiles what it calls a “Workplace Safety Index.” The index ranks the leading causes of workplace injuries based on workers’ compensation insurance costs.
In its most recent index, Liberty Mutual rated the following as the eight most common causes of workplace injuries in the country (during a year in which $59.6 billion in workers’ compensation costs were reported):
Regardless of how your injury occurred on the job, you should not hesitate to get legal help in obtaining the workers’ compensation benefits you need and deserve.
Problems with Identifying Work Related Injuries in New Jersey
In order to obtain New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits, of course, a worker must establish that his or her injury is job-related. Unfortunately, establishing this fact can be problematic for many different reasons.
Two reasons that often arise in workers’ compensation cases are:
Failure to report the injury
As soon as possible, a worker should report his or her injury to his employer. When you report it right away, it helps to establish the connection between the job and the injury. If you wait, it leaves the door open to a challenge by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer. Additionally, under New Jersey law, you must give notice of the injury to your employer within 90 days, or else your claim for workers’ compensation benefits can be barred.
Failure to get medical attention
In addition to protecting your health, getting medical treatment helps to establish a record of your injury. If you wait a week after a workplace accident to get medical care and treatment, it may create doubt that your condition arose from an incident at work.
If you have a preexisting condition, a worker’s compensation insurer may claim that your injury is not work-related. For instance, let’s say you have a preexisting back injury and then strain your back while lifting an object at work. The insurer may allege that you are not entitled to benefits. If this occurs, you will need to provide medical evidence showing that your job duties made your condition worse.
Ways to Improve Workplace Safety
As an employee, you can take steps to help your employer to improve workplace safety. A few suggestions include:
Relevant safety regulations
Different safety regulations apply to different types of jobs. Local, state and federal regulations may overlap. Identify the regulations that apply to your job. Ask your employer to post them in a conspicuous location. This not only helpful in promoting safe practices among your co-workers. It also lets your employer know you are aware of what makes your workplace a safe one.
Required safety equipment
Special protective gear and equipment must be provided for different types of jobs. For example, if you work on scaffolding, your employer must ensure you are provided with guardrails or tying-off equipment in compliance with New Jersey and federal regulations. In other types of jobs, you may need to be fitted with a helmet or provided with safety goggles.
First aid /emergency response
In addition to preventing injuries, you should demand that your employer provides first-aid equipment that will allow you to quickly address an injury. Your employer should also have an emergency response procedure in place. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Workplace First Aid Program is a good place to start in determining what your employer should provide.
You can ask your employer to form a committee of employees, including supervisors, that reviews your workplace’s safety rules compliance and makes suggestions on practices and policies that will promote a safer workplace.
If you have any questions about your right to a safe workplace or about your rights and options following a workplace injury, make sure to contact an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney.