November 10, 2017 • Workers' Compensation
Reporting an injury at work is important to ensure you get the workers’ compensation benefits that you deserve and to ensure that the cause of the injury is properly investigated so further harm can be avoided among other employees. New York City workers’ compensation lawyers can provide assistance in reporting injuries and in taking steps to pursue a claim for benefits when you are hurt or are made sick as a result of your work duties.
Unfortunately, there are many circumstances in which workers should report injuries but don’t do so. In fact, Claims Journal reported recently on the reluctance of workers in meat and poultry processing plans to tell federal inspectors about workplace hazards or work injuries due to fear that their jobs could be affected.
According to Claims Journal, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted an investigation into workplace safety issues in meat and poultry plants. The GAO found that employees were not comfortable contacting federal agencies about problems due to retaliation concerns. The reluctance of employees to come forward is making it difficult for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to address the issues that could be putting workers at risk of harm.
GAO interviewed employees across five states, and the employees had a litany of concerns about working conditions. One issue related to bathroom access, with workers forced to request to use the bathroom and often having those requests delayed or denied. Workers also expressed concerns about the lack of quality on-site medical care when a problem arises. In addition to these issues, the GAO also found that chemicals used in poultry processing plants and meat processing plants do not always undergo testing to determine if they present a risk to workers before the chemicals are used in the processing plants.
The GAO’s investigation is not the first to highlight the high-risk working conditions in meat and poultry plants. A report a year earlier from Oxfam America found that workers in poultry plants were routinely denied the ability to use the bathroom when they need to. Because of concerns about bathroom access, Oxfam found that some workers resort to wearing diapers when they go to work because they know they will not be able to leave the processing line. Not only is this a health and safety concern, but it points to the climate of fear in poultry processing plants that prevents people from making reports even when there are serious hazards that present a risk of substantial harm or a risk of loss of life.
Workers who are hurt at work and who make report of injuries should be protected by anti-retaliation laws. These workers should also be entitled to benefits, including payment of medical costs associated with injuries. New York city workers’ compensation lawyers can provide representation to workers in any industry who are hurt at work and who need help protecting their rights and taking advantage of benefits.