More than 266,000 people are employed in Alabama’s manufacturing industry. This represents a whopping 13% of the entire workforce in the state. Many jobs are concentrated in metro areas such as Talladega-Sylacauga, home to a Honda auto assembly plant, but there are manufacturing companies spread throughout the region.
The prevalence of the manufacturing industry in Alabama is excellent for state employment rates. However, it also results in a high level of workplace injuries for factory workers. Unfortunately, there are many occupational hazards in these dangerous, fast-paced careers, including ones that lead to death.
Types of jobs in factories
Factory jobs can change depending on the manufacturing sector. For example, someone working in fabricated metal and machinery might have a very different job description than someone working in textiles, leather and apparel.
Here are a few common factory jobs that you’ll find in various sectors:
- Welders and solderers
- Quality control inspectors
- Boiler operators
- Laboratory technicians
- Assemblers and fabricators
Common causes of accidents in factories
There can be many causes of workplace injury in a manufacturing environment. Employees are often expected to work tight deadlines and meet productivity quotas while operating dangerous tools and heavy machinery. Workplace safety standards can also vary depending on the factory.
Here are just a few potential reasons for injury on the job as a factory worker:
- Poor lighting
- Defective equipment
- Leaks and spilled liquids
- Falling objects
- Disorganized floor space
- Loud noise levels
- Forklift and other vehicle accidents
- Improper use of machines or tools
- Lack of safety measures and protective equipment
Common factory injuries
Industrial accidents can range from minor to major. An everyday injury might be something like a cut or scrape, while a long-term injury can also develop from a repetitive stress injury (like carpal tunnel syndrome) or an environment that induces hearing or vision loss.
Other factory injuries include but aren’t limited to:
- Slip-and-fall injuries, including broken bones and back and head injuries
- Loss of a limb after getting a body part caught in a machine
- Traumatic brain injury from blunt force trauma caused by forklifts, machines or falling objects
- Burns from electrical shocks or chemical exposure
- Overexertion injuries like muscle sprains and strains
- Dehydration and heat exhaustion
Factory accidents can also be fatal, resulting in wrongful deaths.
The ABC Polymer Industries wrongful death case
In 2017, in the city of Helena, Alabama, a factory worker was killed on the job while working at ABC Polymer Industries. She was pulled into moving rollers that were supposed to be guarded by a barrier-like safety measure while in motion.
ABC Polymer Industries admitted that they trained their employees to improperly raise the guard in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards. They also admitted to having employees violate other safety measures, such as cutting materials on the rollers while the rollers were still in motion. They pleaded guilty to these offenses during the wrongful death lawsuit that followed.
OSHA tips for staying safe while working in manufacturing
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers a range of best practices for manufacturing safety. They aren’t foolproof, and as you’ve just read, there are employers that will disregard OSHA safety measures to cut corners and increase profits.
Speaking very generally, however, following OSHA regulations can be a good way to prevent industrial accidents.
Here are just a few of their tips:
- Offer high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Train employees in safe tool and machine operation
- Improve supervision in potentially dangerous situations
- Establish robust safety and emergency procedures
While these are aimed at employers, employees can follow their advice as well. For example, you can ensure that you’re always wearing the right PPE before going on the work floor.
Workers’ compensation in Alabama
Factory workers in Alabama are usually eligible for workers’ compensation. This is a special kind of insurance meant to protect and provide for employees who are injured while on the job. In other words, if you get hurt because of your manufacturing work, you can apply for workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ comp is considered “no-fault” insurance, meaning that no one has to be held liable for your injury. You don’t have to prove that your workplace was negligent or otherwise to blame for your accident.
Most manufacturing jobs are covered by workers’ comp. This is because of the standards set by the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, which requires almost all businesses with more than 5 employees to purchase workers’ comp insurance.
To receive compensation, workers only need to be able to prove that their injury or illness was a direct result of their job and couldn’t have been caused by other factors. For example, if a worker with a known history of high blood pressure suffers a heart attack at work, that worker likely won’t qualify for workers’ comp benefits because their heart attack could have taken place anywhere and was not exclusively caused by their job.
Potential benefits from workers’ compensation
If you or a loved one is deemed eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you might receive the following:
- Payment for medical bills and related expenses
- Lost wages (typically two-thirds of your average weekly wages)
- Rehabilitation costs
- Death benefits for certain dependants if you die from a work-related injury or illness
How to file a workers’ compensation claim in Alabama
Here are the usual steps to applying for workers’ comp in Alabama:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible to obtain documentation linking your injury or illness to your job. Except in emergencies, you must seek medical treatment from a doctor covered by your employer’s insurance; you can’t just visit your own.
- Report the accident to your employer in writing within 5 days. In some instances, you may have up to 90 days, but it’s best to inform your employer immediately to ensure you remain eligible for compensation.
- Verify that your employer contacts their insurance company and files a First Report of Injury Form to begin your claim.
- Contact an attorney if your claim is denied or you need help filing a claim.
This is a highly simplified version, of course, and there are many complexities to navigate throughout the process. For example, there are time limits for reporting your injury and statutes of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It’s always best to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure your right to compensation is protected.
Why you should hire a workers’ compensation attorney
If you’re unsure about how to proceed with workers’ comp, consider hiring a workers’ comp attorney. They’ll have the skills to guide you through every step of the process and can help you with the following:
- Ensure the process moves along if your employer tries to drag their feet about filing paperwork or providing necessary information for your case.
- Gather medical evidence to support your injury claim.
- Negotiate with your employer and their insurer to ensure you get maximum compensation.
- Appeal a denied claim and prepare your case for trial if necessary.
Contact an Alabama workers’ compensation attorney
If you’re a factory worker who’s suffered an injury or illness on the job in Alabama, you likely have a legal right to compensation. Our Birmingham workers’ compensation attorneys at Nomberg Law Firm can assist you with filing your claim or appealing the decision if your claim is denied. Our attorneys have extensive experience fighting for injured Alabama workers to get them the money they deserve. Let us handle the negotiations with your employer so you can focus on healing.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.