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Experiencing unsafe working conditions?

Factory workers moving fast causing workplace injury

In 1911, Washington State enacted laws that were intended to be a compromise between employers and employees. Back then, employers weren’t required to meet workplace safety standards, resulting in gross negligence and cost-cutting practices. Soaring injury rates led to businesses’ inability to keep up with the constant string of lawsuits. To address the issues, Washington passed the Industrial Insurance Act, which aimed to set standards for workplace safety and create a no-fault coverage system for workers injured on the job.

Fast forward a hundred years or so, and articles like this about Amazon make Carlisle + Byers question whether this grand compromise has failed. Even though businesses like Amazon receive more scrutiny than smaller employers, they still have staggering injury rates and draconian policies. Amazon responds to these criticisms by effectively saying, “Yeah, but we’re getting better.” This justification is laughable and untrue, based on my experience.  Businesses simply can’t treat their employees like cattle (or worse).

I have had the opportunity to work with several Washingtonians injured on an Amazon job. After nearly a dozen years practicing personal injury law, I struggle to think of any other major employer that cares less about their workers’ safety and fails so regularly to treat their injured workers under the Industrial Insurance Act. But here’s the bigger problem: I can think of lots (and lots) of employers that simply aren’t much better. So, what can you do if your work environment is unsafe?

Understand hazardous workplace conditions  

Warehouse workers across industries have said they feel pressure from employers to move fast or face discipline. This pressure may force employees to cut corners that could contribute to injuries, such as

  • Rushing through tasks, increasing their risk of harm 
  • Skipping meal breaks, causing an inability to think and focus on the tasks at hand 
  • Using the wrong technique to lift an item, resulting in back and neck injuries 

Pressure to complete tasks at an increasingly rapid pace also leaves less time for proper safety checks and following safety protocols when operating equipment.

If you’re concerned that your employer isn’t providing you with adequate training, equipment, or time to complete your work safely, calling the Department of Labor and Industries at 1-800-Listens is a great starting point. The Department will consider your concerns, which could (should) spur the Department into launching an investigation. 

Safety matters: WA L&I is (finally) taking action

As attorneys representing injured workers in Washington collectively for almost 30 years, most of our work involves cleaning up after injuries have occurred. It would be better if we get in front of the problem and prevent injuries in the first place.

Our job is supposed to be handled by the Industrial Insurance Act and the Department of Labor and Industries. As we witness employers becoming less and less willing to cooperate with the law regarding workplace injuries, workers are now burdened with the responsibility to speak out when they see lousy safety practices and take action to report them. Now that more light is being shed on major employers, especially warehouse workers’ safety (or lack thereof), we hope those calls for safety don’t go unanswered.

Someday soon, we expect these laws will help shift the state’s focus back to worker safety rather than creating loopholes for corporations. To that end, legislation is being introduced to hold employers accountable to the Good Faith and Fair Dealing standards that other companies must meet. This legislation will be a significant victory for workers.

For now, what can you do if you suffer a workplace injury?

FAQs: Getting legal help after a workplace injury 

Q: What is the first thing someone should do after their accident?

A: Go to the doctor or the Emergency Department. DO NOT be fooled by your supervisor or HR manager – you are not limited to your employer’s nurses, doctors, care teams, etc. You can see the doctor of your choice for a workplace injury if you are a member of the State’s Medical Provider Network. 

Q: What are the benefits of working with a legal professional? 

A: Your employer is a business. Businesses can’t continue to operate without making a profit. Sometimes, businesses, especially large companies, have teams of professionals, attorneys, representatives, and advisors whose sole responsibility is to decrease the costs of your claim. You need someone looking after your rights too. 

Q: If my injury happened while I was on the job, can I get workers’ comp benefits?

A: Knowing your rights is essential. In Washington, if your injury happened while you were on the job, you can get workers’ comp benefits – which usually cover medical expenses and some of your lost wages. 

There’s a possibility that other parties may also be responsible for your injury, so you may be able to file a third-party claim against them. 

Additionally, you may be entitled to retrain for your job and receive other benefits that aren’t always known to you, primarily if you work for one of the 8012 self-insured employers listed in Washington State.

You may get compensation for lost earning capacity if your injury or condition prevents you from earning as much as you did previously.

At Carlisle + Byers, we handle all correspondence, calls, letters, meetings, etc.. You don’t have to handle harassing calls from claim managers, adjusters, or third-party representatives. 

Have you been injured due to an unsafe workplace? 

If you need help investigating your options, contact Carlisle + Byers. We’ll help you navigate the mind-boggling workers’ comp system to get the compensation you deserve and get back on your feet. 

Schedule a free consultation to learn more about Washington Workman’s Comp, WA L&I, and your rights. Call us at (509) 228-7011 to speak with someone now.