In the course of a work day, you may face the risk of injury or death. Many of you do not even know the extent of the hazards to which you are exposed, and others, while understanding the risks, cannot choose a safe work environment. Your workplace is controlled by your employer, and you may be exposed to significant safety and health hazards. Safety hazards are those conditions that cause burns, electrical shocks, cuts, bruises, sprains, broken bones or loss of limb, eyesight or hearing. Health hazards include toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and dust, often in combination with noise, heat and other contaminants. Health hazards react with your body. The result can be lung disease, heart disease, cancer, neurological disorder, or systemic poisoning. Unlike safety hazards, the effects of health hazards may be slow, difficult to diagnose, and complicated by non-occupational factors. While an unguarded blade in a rotary saw may present a serious danger, it often is difficult to recognize the serious danger of a brief exposure to a cancer-causing chemical that can take years to cause a tumor or death. Yet, the risk of dying of cancer may be just as high as the risk of having an accident with the saw. Because you cannot eliminate the safety or health hazards that cause injuries, you should do everything possible to make sure your employer bears the burden of the economic losses caused by work-related injuries.
One of the original purposes of Workers’ Compensation was to provide injured workers and their families with sufficient resources to maintain an adequate standard of living, despite the disability or death of the primary breadwinner. Workers’ Compensation places the burden of a substantial portion of an injured worker’s economic loss on the employer. However, Workers’ Compensation only pays a portion of your loss. It does not pay for the full loss of wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life’s pleasures, or the loss of dignity and confidence seriously injured workers suffer. Yet, because Workers’ Compensation is the only right the injured worker has against the employer, it is most important you know your rights and make sure your employer meets its obligation under the law.