While every job has unique dangers and some risk of injury, there are many fundamental concepts that protect workers across industries, regardless if they work in a restaurant, an office or a meatpacking plant. Nationwide safety rules like bathroom breaks, chemical testing and response to injuries are there to make workers safer, no matter what the job is. Sometimes, a workplace culture makes those basics more difficult to implement.
A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that many meat and poultry plant workers don't feel safe reporting violations at work. Many are even uncomfortable asking to go to the bathroom or to report an injury on the job. While it's understandable that a production environment is fast paced, it's no excuse for overlooking safe working conditions.
The workers' compensation system
Workers' compensation is not a workplace privilege. It's something all workers' have already signed up for simply by accepting a job. It's modeled on insurance policies. An employer pays into the system based on your hours and income, and anyone who the company employs is eligible for compensation if they get hurt on the job.
In workers' compensation, there is no argument of who is at fault or what caused the injury. The program exists to help employees recover from an incident and to heal properly before returning to work. It pays for medical expenses, time away from work and other potential expenses from an injury, depending on the severity. If the injury is so serious you can't return to work, there are additional options.
A wide range of coverage
Workers' compensation covers any workplace caused injury. This can mean someone injured by a slip and fall on a wet floor, an accident with machinery or if exposure to chemicals leads to health problems. Unsafe conditions make injury more prevalent, and not taking bathroom breaks can cause serious health problems as well.
Anyone injured on the job deserves fair compensation and a chance to heal. It's part of the employment contract, and it's illegal for employers to punish an employee for making use of their benefits. Any employee is eligible and injuries need time to heal in order for you to do your job right. Anyone with concerns about workers' compensation and worried about job security should consult with an attorney to help protect your right to a safe workplace without retaliation.