Most Common Work Injuries: Prevention and Compensation

A look at the most common on-the-job injuries, prevention recommendations, and employee tips for filing a successful workers’ compensation claim.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 2.5 million workers suffer non-fatal illnesses or injuries, and over 5,000 workers are fatally injured in the workplace each year, with nearly a million injured workers losing days from work.¹

American workers benefit from knowing how workplace injuries happen so they can work smarter and safer.

Workers need to know what their employers should be doing to create a safe work environment, what workers’ comp insurance covers, and when injured workers need help to get the compensation they deserve.

Soft-tissue and Back Injuries

Sprains, strains, and tears to muscles, tendons, and disks are the most common type of injuries reported by employees, costing millions of compensation dollars annually.

There are several types of soft-tissue injuries. Some workers recover with a few days rest, while others can be permanently disabled.

Overextension is one of the most common types of work-related injury. Overextension occurs from pulling, pushing, lifting, gripping, carrying or throwing.

Overextension is known to cause sprained and torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and is the most common cause of serious work-related back injuries.

Repetitive motion injuries, sometimes called repetitive stress injuries, are temporary or permanent injuries to muscles, nerves, ligaments or tendons caused by performing the same motion over and over again, like hammering, typing or scanning groceries.

Repetitive motion can cause shoulder and neck pain, arm and wrist pain, and vision problems.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most commonly reported result of repetitive motion.

Work-Related Motor Vehicle Accidents

Traffic accidents happen every day, and a significant number of  those are work-related car accidents.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that traffic accidents are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States.

Most workers aren’t eligible for workers’ comp if they’re in a crash while commuting to or from work.

Workers who drive as part of their job, like delivery drivers, or workers who are performing duties at the request or on behalf of their employer, like taking a package to the post office, should be covered by workers’ compensation.

If you’ve suffered injuries in work-related car accident that wasn’t your fault, in addition to making a workers’ comp claim, you may need to pursue damages against the other driver to be fully compensated. For example, workers’ comp won’t pay for damages to your car, even if you were on an errand for your boss when the crash occurred.

Workers injured in vehicle accidents while on the job, or otherwise injured by a negligent third party need special consideration. These claims require the expertise of a personal injury attorney to fully compensate the injured victim.

What if you’re in a job-related accident that was your fault?  You’ll still be eligible for workers’ compensation if you’ve been injured and unable to work.

In addition to workers’ comp, your employer’s liability insurance carrier should step in to defend and protect you against any damage claims made by occupants from the other vehicle.

Slips, Trips, and Falls on the Job

Across all industries, slips, trips and falls in the workplace are the most common causes of disability to American workers.  20 to 30 percent of slip and fall accidents cause moderate to severe injuries, like head injuries and concussions, broken bones, and spinal cord injuries.

Slip and fall injuries often happen when debris, machine lubricant, fluids or beverages are spilled on the floor. Slip and falls can lead to serious injuries, but most often result in bad bruising, sprained muscles, or torn ligaments.

Slip and falls are often to blame for work-related knee and ankle injuries that happen to workers in jobs that keep them on their feet, like nurses and wait staff.

Falling from heights occurs when workers fall from roofs, high equipment or lifts, multi-level inventory stations, scaffolding, ladders, and down stairways.

OSHA reports falls from heights as the leading cause of death in construction accidents.

Falling Objects and Machinery Accidents

Objects falling from multi-level inventory stations, product shelves, ladders, forklifts, pallets, and other upper-level work areas frequently result in serious head, face, neck, and foot injuries.

Flying particles or shards from shattered objects or malfunctioning machinery contribute to the more than 800,000 work-related eye injuries that happen every year.

Some of the most horrendous workplace injuries are caused by machinery accidents, leading to amputated fingers or other body parts.

Malfunctioning machinery may ultimately cause an explosion, exposing workers to serious electrical, thermal or chemical burns to their face or body.

Workplace Violence

Most workers don’t expect to risk their lives on the job. We assume our employers will provide a safe work environment, yet news of workers injured, disabled or killed by workplace violence has become all too common.

Violent crimes can happen anywhere, even on the job. Burglary, theft and especially armed robberies can leave employees physically and emotionally traumatized.

Just as violent and equally terrifying are the workplace attacks by current or former co-workers, or dissatisfied customers who may strike out at targeted individuals or seek to hurt as many people as possible.

If you’ve suffered physical or emotional damages from workplace violence, you are as eligible for compensation as any other injured worker.

Safe Workplace Recommendations

Reducing common work-related injuries takes planning and thought. While you may not have the luxury of choosing from several employers, it’s still a good idea to seek employment with a company providing a safe work environment.

Safe work environments start with a careful selection of workers. Carefully selecting employees includes running criminal background checks, contacting prospective employees’ references, and drug screening.

Although it’s illegal to deny employment based on disability, an employer has a responsibility to know if the prospective worker has previous injuries which may affect his or her ability to work safely. Hiring a worker who isn’t physically capable of meeting the demands of the job is dangerous to other workers.

Company-specific safety checklists take the guesswork out of operational activities. Workers should review checklists before operating machinery, lifting objects, dealing with toxic substances, or engaging in other potentially hazardous activities.

Workers who ignore company checklists are more likely to miss an important step in the process. One misstep can result in multiple injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to follow specific safety guidelines.

These can include requiring workers to wear protective clothing, goggles, respirators, or safety shoes, and designating specific workers whose duties include keeping floors clear of debris.

Companies need to provide clear restrictions for workers whose duties include lifting inventory, machinery, and other heavy objects.

Workers who lift excessively heavy objects should wear safety belts and harnesses. Using weight-to-worker ratios, a company can identify objects that are too heavy for one worker to lift.

Some jobs require formal training. Improper or insufficient training in the operation of machinery, vehicles, tools, and handling of toxic substances is an invitation to accidents. Continuing education and regular reviews of workers’ skills is vital to protect employees from injury.

The ergonomic design of workstations can help reduce common work-related neck, shoulder, and back strain injuries, and can also reduce the potential for carpal tunnel syndrome.

What to Do If You’re Injured on the Job

Every state requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. With some exceptions, on-the-job injuries are covered by workers’ comp medical and partial wage benefits.

The first action after an injury is to seek medical help. If necessary, ask fellow workers or your supervisor to administer first aid or call 911.

After emergency care, you’ll need to be evaluated and treated by medical professionals who are approved by your employer’s workers compensation insurance company.

File your workers’ comp claim as soon as possible. Most states have strict deadlines for filing your injury claim. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to recover any compensation for your injury.

The workers’ compensation insurance company is not on your side. You may work for a terrific employer, but the insurance company calls the shots on your workers’ comp claim, and they’ll do whatever it takes to avoid large payouts to injured workers like you.

Educate yourself on workers’ compensation wage and medical benefits, and what you must do to maximize your compensation.

Claims for minor injuries with short recovery periods can usually be managed without an attorney, but do your homework first. If you aren’t satisfied with how your injury claim is being handled, contact an attorney before accepting a settlement from the insurance company.

If you’ve been seriously injured, especially if you may be suffering a partial or permanent disability, you have too much to lose by trying to face the insurance company on your own. Contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney right away.

Reputable workers’ comp attorneys don’t charge for an initial office consultation. It costs you nothing to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

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