Workplace Injuries in Spotlight During Safety Month
Monday, June 26, 2023
June is national safety month and workplace injuries are an important focus.
What is considered a workplace injury is broader than many workers may understand.
Lee Thomas, an attorney and board member of Washington State Association for Justice, said the state is unique in that it considers the wear and tear of work over time as an injury.
"Most people just think, 'Oh well, I'm just getting old and so I'm wearing out,'" said Thomas. "Well, if you're a concrete laborer, you're going to wear out sooner. And that's a workplace injury."
Thomas said the state also differs from some other states in that employees pay into the workers' compensation program alongside employers.
He said because Washington covers wear and tear incidents, it has a more expansive view of what is considered a workplace injury.
"If your injury aggravates or accelerates a preexisting condition in any way, it should be covered," said Thomas. "And so we're going to count a lot more of those kinds of injuries, which should be counted as workplace injuries, but a lot of states will not put those in their data."
Thomas said workers hurt on the job received a victory in the state Legislature this year.
When they make claims, workers are sometimes required to go to a third-party doctor to evaluate their injury - and that appointment was done in secret for the past few decades.
"If you are told you have to go to some other doctor by the Department of Labor and Industries or your employer, you can now record these with a videotape or audiotape," said Thomas. "You just have to let the company that's scheduling the examination know that you intend to do that."
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