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Hackensack Workers' Compensation Law Blog

New Jersey ink plant blamed for fire that injured 7 workers

Bergen County industrial workers have a right to expect employers to be concerned about safety. That doesn't mean all employers live up to those expectations. Lax safety precautions can lead to manufacturing accidents, serious worker injuries and sometimes, deaths.

The Chemical Safety Board recently reported the results of an investigation into a 2012 New Jersey industrial accident. The CSB advises the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The report reviewed circumstances surrounding a flash fire at U.S. Ink in East Rutherford, where seven workers were burned in a flash fire.

What are New Jersey's workers' compensation benefits?

Benefits are available for many Bergen County workers who suffer job-related accidents or illnesses. Some employees, like railroad workers, have coverage under federal workers' compensation or other specialized plans. Almost all other workers, with the exception of independent contractors, are covered by New Jersey workers' compensation.

Benefits, provided by employer insurance, are provided to take care of wage losses, temporary or permanent disability and medical bills. The payments are related directly to an injured or ill employee's ability to go back to work. Benefits are also available for families of workers, who died from job-related injuries or health conditions.

Hot work health problems for New Jersey employees

In cold working conditions, you can add layers of clothing to warm up. In hot environments, clothing changes often aren't enough to stay cool. Prolonged heat exposure at Bergen County factories, foundries, restaurant kitchens and outdoor construction sites places workers at risk of becoming seriously ill.

Elevated temperatures are one source of heat-related health problems. Heat exposure also occurs as a result of arduous physical work, high humidity, radiant heat sources and contact with objects that are hot.

Firefighters and New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits

Employer insurance covering workplace injuries and deaths is reserved for Bergen County workers classified as employees. Contract workers and volunteers can be excluded from workers' compensation benefits. However, unlike "employees," injured contractors or volunteers aren't restricted from taking legal actions against employers.

Governments are employers for most firefighters, but there are plenty of volunteers in New Jersey. Fortunately, the state recognizes the dangers volunteers face alongside paid counterparts. A provision in the state workers' compensation law presumes respiratory diseases suffered by volunteer firefighters are work-related, making benefits available.

How do New Jersey companies cope with manufacturing accidents?

Some Bergen County companies have no advance plans to deal with worker injuries or deaths. Without preparation, a manufacturing accident triggers an environment of chaos. Catastrophic injuries and fatalities are not the products of every workplace accident, but companies need to plan in case they are.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration tightened rules about workplace accident reporting heading into 2015. Fatalities must be reported to the government, as well as individual job-related hospitalizations, eye loss and amputation injuries. Time limits are set for employers to contact OSHA: eight hours for a fatality and 24 hours for other reportable injuries.

Continuing analysis of workplace injuries and illnesses

The U.S. government requires Bergen County employers to keep records about illnesses and injuries among employees. Companies aren't reporting every cold and cough, but they are keeping tabs on how worker health conditions affect the workplace.

The contents of a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report covered the numbers associated with nonfatal health problems among workers, in and out of the private sector, during 2013. More than 3 million illness and injury cases were reported that year in non-government workplaces. The health and safety of government employees fared much worse than their private sector counterparts.

Resolving disputes over New Jersey workers' comp benefits

Bergen County employers or their insurers may argue against claims filed by workers with job-related injuries or illnesses. Dispute resolutions are possible through hearings through the New Jersey Division of Workers' Compensation. Informal hearings are non-binding, unlike formal hearings that can lead to trial.

The hearings are conducted by assigned judges in the worker or employer's county. Workers are not required to hire an attorney for these proceedings, although legal representation is strongly advised. The injured party pays capped legal costs for informal hearings resulting in compensation; fees are shared with an employer or insurer in formal cases.

Workplace chemical exposure and New Jersey workers

Bergen County workers can become ill without making an immediate connection between an illness or disease and a job environment. Unlike many work injuries, illnesses can take time to develop, diagnose and trace to a source in the workplace. Employees must report a work-related illness to an employer as soon as possible to meet filing deadlines set for New Jersey workers' compensation benefits.

Let's say you are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis from exposure to smoke or chemicals. Unless you work alone, it's likely other employees at the company are at risk of developing the same condition. Reporting this condition may help you and co-workers get the compensation required to cover medical expenses and wages losses.

When employers fail to carry New Jersey workers’ comp insurance

State laws require employers to self-insure or carry coverage for job-related accidents and illnesses affecting employees. Every New Jersey employer and some out-of-state employers must have some form of workers' compensation coverage. Employees hurt at work are not left without options when employers break these rules.

Injured employees can receive New Jersey workers' compensation benefits, despite the shortcomings of employers. The Uninsured Employer's Fund was set up to provide benefits to injured workers in this situation. Benefits aren't automatic – workers must report the employer's lack of coverage to the state.

The costs of ladder and scaffolding falls for New Jersey workers

Vulnerability to job injuries is something that concerns certain types of Bergen County workers more than others. Employees most prone to injuries are those engaged in high-risk physical activities, like working with large machines or performing tasks at great heights.

Construction site accidents can be among the most devastating for victims and their families. Injuries may be severe and disabling, threatening the wage earner's health and livelihood. Coverage for injury-related medical costs and wages losses are accessible through workers' compensation claims.