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Want a 10% Reduction in Workers’ Compensation Payout? Better File Those Safety Rules…

Employees injured on the job may be owed compensation under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. While workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system, there are some exceptions. For example, in North Carolina, in general, if the injury or death was proximately caused by the employee’s intoxication, no compensation would be owed. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-12. The same rule applies for non-prescribed controlled substances. This is good news for the employer, but it only protects employers if the injured worker happened to be intoxicated at the time of the accident.

However, employers can also limit their exposure when an employee willfully disregards a rule or regulation. §97-12 provides for a 10% reduction in compensation when the injury or death is caused by the willful breach of any rule or regulation adopted by the employer and approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

So how does an employer get the protection of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-12? First, come up with a well-defined set of safety guidelines specific to your industry, if you have not done so already. Next, file these safety rules with the Commission for approval. Unfortunately, the Commission does not keep a database of approved rules from which you can pick and choose—you’ll need to make sure yours are specifically approved.

So what does this mean for you? Being proactive can save your company money. When an accident does happen, and if it is because an employee did not observe company safety rules, this 10% reduction will not be available unless the company’s specific rule was filed with the Commission. Employers cannot simply point to violations of other safety rules previously approved by the Commission for other companies in the same industry.

It seems that a lot in the world of workers’ compensation involves reacting to things that happen: accidents, injuries, diagnoses, etc. Filing safety rules with the Commission is one of the ways you can proactively take steps to protect yourself and your business, or at least potentially reduce future exposure.

Jefferson P. Whisenant is a member of the firm’s worker’s compensation team representing employers and insurers throughout all stages of litigation. Before attending Wake Forest University School of Law, Jefferson graduated cum laude from Clemson University with a degree in Political Science, where he played Club Football for two seasons. He remains an avid fan of all things Clemson. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending time with his Treeing Walker Coonhound, Doug.