Petrillo & Goldberg Law Blog

workers' compensation lawyer

A New Jersey ice cream manufacturing plant faces OSHA penalties after two employees lose fingers in separate workplace accidents.

In September 2010, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated a New Jersey ice cream manufacturing plant after two employees suffered losses of their fingers while repairing an ice cream wrapper machine. During a repair in 2018, an employee’s fingers were caught in the machine. Because the machine jammed his fingers, the sanitation worker lost one of his fingers and fractured another one. While repairing the same equipment in 2020, another worker lost two fingers.

The OSHA investigation concluded that the manufacturing plant violated several safety protocols in the 2018 and 2020 workplace accidents. The findings were that the company failed to perform the lockup procedure, which prevents machines from starting up accidentally. The company also violated the policy to shut down the equipment and isolate it during maintenance and repairs. OSHA proposed penalties on the ice cream manufacturing plant for more than $230,000.

The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics released that in 2019 employers reported than 2 million workplace accidents involving nonfatal injuries and illnesses. When an employee suffers a work-related injury, he may seek compensation from his employer for medical treatment, healthcare expenses, and wage compensation while out of work. Under New Jersey law, the exclusive remedy for work-related or workplace accidents is for the injured employee to file a workers’ compensation claim.

An employer must have notice of an employee’s job-related accident. If the employer does not obtain knowledge of the incident independently, the employee must notify the employer. Failure to notify the employer within 90 days after the accident bars the employee from receiving compensation.

State law requires employers to have insurance that covers their employees for work-related injuries and illness. Employers may have worker’s compensation insurance through an insurance agency or provider. They can also choose to have self-insurance, which is insurance that the employer finances to cover workplace or work-related accidents. The employer must apply and get approval from the New Jersey Commissioner of Insurance to carry self-insurance. The employer must prove that the business is permanent and can financially afford to pay compensation to the injured or ill employees.

After notifying the employer of the accident, the employee may submit a worker’s compensation claim. The insurer, either an insurance provider or the employer, reviews the claim, then approves or denies it. If the insurer denies the claim, the employee may file an informal or formal claim with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.

The employee may file an informal claim for a hearing to resolve disputes. The workers’ compensation insurance may approve the claim, but the employee may disagree with specific terms. The informal process can address compensation, medical treatment and expenses, and the duration of benefits.

The injured employee may decide to file a formal petition for his worker’s compensation claim. The judge of compensation conducts a hearing in which the parties submit evidence, and the worker and other relevant witnesses testify. The judge reviews the evidence and makes a ruling on the case.

The statute of limitation for filing a formal petition for a workers’ compensation claim is two years from the date of the accident. Even if the injured worker filed an informal claim that is not favorable to him, he is still under the two-year limit to file a formal petition.

One of the benefits the claims process decides on is disability benefits. The injured employee’s treating physician determines the level of disability. Under New Jersey worker’s compensation laws, the employee may have a temporary or permanent disability.

When an employee losses a body part in a work-related accident, he may be eligible to receive permanent partial disability benefits. The loss of a body part is a life-changing event. Depending on which body part it is, the injured employee’s amputation may make performing job tasks and duties more difficult or even impossible. It also affects the person’s ability to do certain activities in his personal life. The compensation is a percentage of the wage the employee had at the time of the injury. State law lists the maximum number of weeks the worker receives the compensation benefits for each part of the body lost or amputated, such as:

  • 80 weeks for loss of thumb
  • 40 weeks for loss of great toe
  • 260 weeks for loss of hand
  • 330 weeks for loss of arm
  • 315 weeks for loss of leg