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Workers' compensation benefits payable for work-related death

A crush injury at work can be caused by faulty machinery or operator error. It may be important to know which one because if it's faulty machinery there may be a third-party tort claim against the machine's manufacturer for compensation over and above workers' compensation. In the reported case, which occurred in a state other than North Carolina, what's clear at this time is that workers' compensation benefits are payable to the family of a deceased worker killed in a workplace accident.

The accident occurred at a pulp and paper company on July 23 while the 48-year-old male worker was using a Bobcat skid-steer vehicle to unload a pulp dryer. He was apparently caught by a moving piece of the dryer and crushed by the equipment, according to investigators. A spokesman for the county coroner in Franklin, Ohio verified that the accident was work-related. He indicated that the man suffered devastating work-related injuries, with the cause of death being blunt force trauma.

The fatal accident at Cheney Pulp and Paper Company in Franklin has raised investigative interest in the company. OSHA investigators reportedly found nearly 30 workplace violations in a 2010 inspection. OSHA's Cincinnati Area Director confirmed that was a 'rather large number' of violations. Eighteen of those were labeled 'serious' and one was labeled 'willful.'

The resolution of those prior violations could not be determined. The OSHA investigation may take two to three months because the Cincinnati office handles a 20 county area. He said it's too early to tell whether this accident was caused by operator error or faulty machinery.

Regardless of cause, the man's immediate family is entitled to collect workers' compensation benefits due to on-the-job injuries resulting in death. Whether a work-related accident like this occurs in North Carolina or another state, workers' compensation benefits are payable. For a death case, the payments include funeral benefits, medical expenses and a percentage of average weekly wage benefits, payable usually on a bi-weekly basis.

Source: daytondailynews.com, "OSHA violations found at Franklin paper plant," Clint Davis, July 25, 2013

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