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Hazards of workplace may lead to disability benefits

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Ohio-based Cooper Tire & Rubber failed to provide proper protection from potentially harmful chemicals at a plant in Ohio in November 2010. The company was cited by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration for 10 associated violations. In June 2011, OSHA found similar violations occurring at another plant owned by Cooper.

Exposure to unsafe working conditions can result in a disabling injury that leaves the victim unable to work, which necessitates the need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits, similar to workers' compensation, allow a person incapable of working due to an injury or health condition to continue receiving an income.

Cooper is one of many companies on a list created by the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, a division of OSHA. This program was started in 2010 and is part of an initiative to focus on employers that place their workers in the worst working conditions. OSHA considers safety violations along and the number of significant accidents that occur when creating this list. Some believe that the list is missing some major employers.

According to the latest statistics from the program, the number of companies with poor safety records has jumped from approximately 165 organizations to 330 in the last year. Some experts believe that the poor economic environment is forcing workers to participate in work practices that they would not have if job security was more stable.

This has left some wondering whether it is safer right now to be employed or unemployed. Many jobs, especially in the construction industry, leave people injured on a daily basis. It's probably almost always better to work, but employees who experience dangerous conditions should not be afraid to blow the whistle.

Source: Facing South, "The risks of being employed," Phil Mattera, Aug. 6, 2012

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