Most Americans spend nearly one-third of their lives sleeping, and another third of their lives at work. It is only reasonable that you should feel safe where you work if you spend so much time there, but for those who work dangerous jobs, that is not always the case. That is why worker’s compensation is so important. Knowing that in the event of an injury you will not be financially crippled or completely out of a job is a comforting thought. North Carolina is actually below the national average for workplace injuries, and while that is fantastic, it is still important for all employees to be covered.
Workplace injuries are more common in industrial jobs, but in North Carolina, ALL business that employs three or more people must have worker’s compensation insurance, according to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. This is incredibly important because even nonindustrial jobs such as working at an animal shelter can still put employees at risk of serious harm or infection. Even if you are an independent contractor of a company based in North Carolina, your employer must still be required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this rule. Certain employees of railroad companies need not be covered by this insurance, and farms that employ fewer than ten nonseasonal workers also do not need to provide worker’s compensation insurance. Some may argue that these rules are in place to give small businesses the chance to grow by not burdening them with needing to purchase insurance to cover all of their employees, but I think it would be far more ethical to allocate state funds to these new businesses so that every employee can feel safe at work.
According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, in 2013, the number of injuries in the workplace decreased from 2012, and North Carolina was only one of 12 states that were below the national average. While that is an impressive statistic, it did not last for long. The number of fatal workplace injuries jumped in 2014, and then again in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The industry that had the most deaths was the private construction industry at 30 deaths, most from slips and falls. A whopping 95% of the 150 total work related deaths in North Carolina were men. 25% of these deaths were workers who were self-employed, which is incredibly important because the North Carolina Worker’s Compensation act provides many exceptions to those who own their own businesses.
Even though worker’s compensation is the norm for most North Carolina workers, there is a lot more the state could do to protect its workers. North Carolina could start by expanding the NCWCA to include those who are self-employed, as well as small businesses. Helping out our employees in the event of an injury is definitely worth the cost.