It shouldn't hurt to go to work. In 2008, more than 4.6 million workers across all industries, including state and local government, suffered work-related injuries and illnesses that were reported by employers, with 3.7 million injuries and illnesses reported in private industry. Due to limitations in the injury reporting system and underreporting of workplace injuries, this number understates the problem. The true toll is estimated to be two to three times greater—or 9 million to 14 million injuries and illnesses a year. The health and safety of America's workers is detailed in the AFL-CIO Death on the Job report.
Experts agree that if you are injured on the job, you should:
- Notify your supervisor, the personnel department and your union steward.
- Get the medical treatment you need. You may be required to see a doctor selected by your employer. If you are injured on the job, your employer's insurance company is obligated to pay for reasonable and necessary medical treatment.
If your employer has written an "incident report," get a copy of it. Your union steward and the employer should obtain the names of workers who witnessed your injury or assisted you afterward, as you may need this information if you seek workers' compensation benefits.
You also may be entitled to temporary or permanent disability benefits or vocational rehabilitation benefits. If you file a claim for benefits and it is rejected, you may appeal the ruling, even to the courts. Experts recommend seeking legal advice.
The U.S. Department of Labor advises that private-sector and state and local government workers injured on the job should contact their state workers' compensation board. The department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs also has specific information about federal employees', coal miners' and longshore and harbor workers' compensation, plus state workers' compensation laws.