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Do Employers Have a Duty to the Risk of Injury to Workers in North Carolina?

Sat Apr 6th, by Work Injury |

Do employers have a duty to the risk of injury to workers in North Carolina? There’s no simple yes or no answer, but this remains a topic of interest to workers, employers, and state officials alike. In fact, defining an employer’s duties and obligations in regard to their employees’ safety is one of the key concepts on which the Workers’ Compensation insurance system is built and an area a Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate.

Employers play a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of their personnel, particularly when they’re at the workplace. Some companies go above and beyond their legally mandated requirements when it comes to keeping employees safe and healthy; others sadly fail to meet the bare minimum. Understanding the legal obligations and responsibilities a company (or individual) has to its employees can be essential for both workers and employers.

Employer Responsibility for Worker Safety in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are certain legal duties implied by an employer-employee relationship, and some of these relate to protecting the health and safety of workers. These responsibilities are encoded into law through a complex web of laws and regulations, such as the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and the standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

With today’s fast-paced industries and packed workday schedules, the critical obligation employers have to keep their teams safe can sometimes get overlooked. Unfortunately for everyone involved, these everyday lapses in workplace vigilance can lead to disastrous consequences, including serious on-the-job injuries or even workplace fatalities.

Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others, such as fighting fires or construction work that involves removing asbestos or other substances known to lead to occupational diseases like mesothelioma. These known dangers do not absolve an employer of their safety responsibilities, however. Quite the contrary, employers who ask their personnel to take on dangerous tasks must be extra diligent about properly equipping and informing those workers.

Being realistic, it is simply not possible to prevent every single workplace mishap in every single industry (that’s what the workers’ compensation system is for, after all). Even so, employers are expected–and, in many cases, required by law–to take reasonable proactive steps to prevent foreseeable accidents and limit workplace injuries.

Here are some key employer safety obligations in the State of North Carolina:

  • Provide employees with qualified workers’ compensation coverage.
  • Provide a safe workplace (i.e., free from unreasonable hazards).
  • Maintain accurate and complete records of workplace injuries and illnesses that are reported by employees.
  • Supply workers with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for their job duties (at no cost to the employee).
  • Display all required posters and signage (employee rights, safety information, etc.).
  • Alert workers to potentially dangerous chemicals in their work areas or job duties; ensure they are trained to use these chemicals and have access to their material safety data sheets (MSDS).
  • Offer access to medical testing and other services in accordance with OSHA standards.
  • Conduct routine tests and inspections of safety equipment, infrastructure, and plans.
  • Provide adequate safety training to all workers with potentially dangerous job duties.
  • Report all qualifying incidents (hospitalization, loss of limb, fatality, etc.) to OSHA within the mandated time frame.
  • Refrain from retaliating against an employee who has reported a safety issue or workplace injury.

Note that some of the above may be subject to exceptions for certain jobs, circumstances, or industries. Consult with a reputable attorney for assistance verifying which employer obligations apply to you.

North Carolina’s No-Fault Workers’ Compensation System: What It Means for You and Your Employer

In North Carolina, the workers’ comp system runs on the “no-fault” insurance principle. This means that benefits are granted without the need to prove that your employer (or some other party) caused your injury through negligence or malfeasance. It’s important to understand that you can’t sue your employer for a work-related injury in North Carolina. A workers’ comp claim is essentially a direct alternative for such a lawsuit.

Injured parties who wish to hold their employer responsible for unsafe work conditions or inadequate safety policies sometimes balk at the no-fault nature of North Carolina’s system at first. The reality, however, is that no-fault workers’ compensation is often a win-win proposition for employers and injured workers alike. Consider the benefits:

  • There is no need to conduct an inquiry or investigation to determine who caused the accident. This usually means much faster access to benefits.
  • Unlike a personal injury case in civil court, an injured worker can still be eligible for benefits even if their own negligence was partially or fully at fault for the accident in which they were hurt.
  • Due to the expeditious, streamlined nature of workers’ comp claims (as compared to civil court trials), the legal fees involved tend to be quite reasonable.
  • The workers’ comp system allows companies to quickly and quietly resolve delicate situations that could cause harm to their brand’s reputation.


Q: Are Employers Liable for Injuries to Employees Even if the Employees Are at Fault?

A: Employers are liable for injuries to employees even if the employees are at fault in the sense that employees harmed at work through their own mistakes are still eligible to be paid out through the NC workers’ compensation system. “Liability” may not be the most precise word for it, however, because workers’ comp is an alternative legal process that bypasses the idea of liability for an accident altogether by working on a no-fault principle.

Q: What Is the Employer’s Responsibility When a Worker Is Injured?

A: When a worker is injured, it is the employer’s responsibility to initiate a workers’ compensation claim by notifying either their workers’ comp insurance carrier or the North Carolina Industrial Commission. They may have other key responsibilities, such as providing documentation or testimony, as the process unfolds.

Q: Does Your Employer Have a Legal Responsibility to Protect You?

A: Your employer does have a legal responsibility to protect you while you are clocked in and on the job. These protections can look different from role to role or industry to industry but usually involve a combination of safety equipment, training, and other resources. If you feel unsafe at work, please contact the reputable Winston-Salem worker’s compensation lawyer, M. Reid Acree, Jr., at your earliest convenience.

Q: What Are at Least Three Employer Responsibilities Required by OSHA?

A: OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides a robust regulatory framework for keeping people safe at work. Three key responsibilities put on employers by OSHA include providing a reasonably safe work environment, giving workers the education and protective equipment necessary to do their jobs without getting hurt, and keeping complete and accurate records of injuries.

M. Reid Acree, Jr. – World-Class Legal Help for Injured North Carolina Workers

If you feel unsafe at work or if your employer isn’t responding appropriately to an injury you’ve reported, help is available. Contact our office at your earliest convenience to set up a confidential, no-pressure consultation to discuss your situation.