How to receive workers’ comp if you’re injured in an industrial factory
More than 480,000 people are employed in the manufacturing industry in Georgia, accounting for 92 percent of the exports from the state. Major companies like Gulfstream Aerospace, Caterpillar and Kia Motors call Georgia their home with locations in Savannah, Athens and West Point.
Although the manufacturing industry is critical to the state economy, it’s also where a significant number of injuries to employees occur. In 2019, almost 12,000 employees in the manufacturing industry were injured on the job.
Common causes of industrial workplace accidents
Although there are many causes of accidents in manufacturing and industrial workplaces, some are more common than others and many can cause serious injury and death. Some of the most common factors include:
- Chemical spills
- Collapsed scaffolding
- Electrical shock
- Equipment malfunction
- Falling objects
- Fires and explosions
- Improper maintenance
- Lack of training
- Negligent supervision
- Safety code violations
Workers’ compensation for industrial injuries
If you are employed in the industrial sector in Georgia and are injured on the job, you are most likely entitled to workers’ compensation. However, it’s critical that your injury be properly documented and your claim filed correctly.
Georgia requires all workplace injuries to be reported to your boss, supervisor or manager within 30 days.
If you fail to report the injury within 30 days, you may be unable to collect the compensation. Start the process by completing a form that should be provided by your employer when you report your injury. If they don’t have such a form, you can download one from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation website. If possible, include photos as further documentation.
Once your employer receives your documentation, they should submit it to the State Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 24 hours. OSHA may then conduct an investigation into the safety of your workplace.
Common workplace injuries in manufacturing
The manufacturing industry can be dangerous work, and certain types of injuries occur often such as back and neck injuries as well as brain and spinal cord injuries. Industrial workers are often diagnosed with herniated disks, torn or sprained muscles, broken bones and lacerations.
Specific events can also cause certain injuries. An explosion, for example, could lead to tissue damage in the ears leading to deafness, while heat exposure could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Or, in the case of the 2021 poultry plant accident in Gainesville, a toxic chemical leak could lead to death by asphyxiation.
In addition, many workers in the manufacturing industry suffer from occupational illnesses and repetitive movement injuries such as carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and tennis elbow.
Catastrophic industrial injuries
If your injury is catastrophic and you are unable to return to work, Georgia law offers a specific type of workers’ compensation designed to protect your financial well-being. There are 6 types of injuries that qualify you for this special compensation, including paralysis from a spinal injury, amputation, traumatic brain injury and blindness.
If you suffer second- or third-degree burns over at least 25 percent of your body or third-degree burns over 5 percent of your face or hands, you also may qualify. Other injuries may also qualify if they are severe enough to prevent you from returning to work.
In order for your injury to be designated as “catastrophic,” you must either enter an agreement with your employer or the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation must declare your injury as catastrophic to qualify. Once either your employer or the Board agrees that you suffered a catastrophic injury, you could be provided a lifetime of medical care and financial support.
Can I sue for my workplace injury?
Georgia law doesn’t permit an employee to sue their employer after they have been injured on the job. However, because workers’ compensation is a no-fault program, even if you were at fault for the accident that caused your injury, you may still be entitled to compensation. There are exceptions, such as if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If a third party is responsible for the accident, however, you may be able to file a suit against that third party. For example, if the machinery you are working on is defective and that defect causes an injury, you may have a claim against the manufacturer of that machinery.
You can’t be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim against your employer.
Do I have to see the company doctor?
Your employer may require you to see a specific doctor to confirm your injuries. They must post a list of treating physicians if you are injured in the workplace. It must be posted in an area that is visible to all employees, either in a break room, near a time clock or in the lobby.
In addition, you must be provided details on your rights and how to use the panel of physicians after an injury. If the list is not posted, is defective or if you have not been explained your rights, you are entitled to use any doctor you choose, even if they are not on the list.
If the list is valid but you are not happy with the physician you chose, you are permitted to make 1 change to another doctor on the list. After the first change, you must get your employer or the insurance company’s consent to change again. The doctor you choose is permitted to refer you to other physicians, testing, physical therapy, recommend surgery, counseling or other treatments for your injury.
When to talk to a Georgia workers’ comp attorney
If you have been injured while working in a manufacturing or industrial facility, or if a loved one has died of injuries sustained in a factory accident, speak to a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.