9 Most Common Work-Related Injuries and Accidents: Prevention and Compensation

A look at the most common work 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 common 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.

The 9 Most Common Work-Related Injuries:

    1. Soft-tissue and Back Injuries
    2. Slips, Trips, and Falls on the Job
    3. Work-related Motor Vehicle Accidents
    4. Falling from High Places
    5. Injuries from Falling or Shattered Objects
    6. Machinery and Tool Accidents
    7. Repetitive Motion Injuries
    8. Chemical and Thermal Burns
    9. Workplace Violence
    10. What to Do If You’re Injured on the Job

1. Soft-tissue and Back Injuries

Sprains, strains, and tears to muscles, tendons, and disks are the most common type of overexertion 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 injuries. 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.

Safety Considerations for Heavy Lifting

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.

2. 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.  Twenty to thirty 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, or other fluids 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 injuries and ankle injuries that happen to workers in jobs that keep them on their feet, like nurses and wait staff.

Keeping Workplace Floors Clear of Hazards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to follow specific safety guidelines. These can include designating specific workers whose duties include keeping floors clear of spills and debris.

3. 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.

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

Most workers aren’t eligible for workers’ comp if they’re in a crash while commuting to or from work. However, 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 you against any damage claims made by occupants from the other vehicle.

Third-Party Injury Claims

If you’ve suffered injuries in a 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 have the right to pursue a third-party injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Severe injury claims require the expertise of a personal injury attorney to fully compensate the injured victim.

4. Falling from High Places

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

Construction workers are often at risk of falls from high places. Workplace falls can result in traumatic brain injury, multiple broken bones, neck injuries, and spinal cord injuries.

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

Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

When a worker is fatally injured on the job, worker’s compensation insurance generally provides death benefits to the worker’s spouse or next-of-kin. However, accepting a worker’s compensation settlement may waive the family’s right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer.

If your loved one died from a workplace accident, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.

5. Injuries from Falling or Shattered Objects

Falling objects 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.

Protective Gear Prevents Injuries

Workers can protect themselves by following industry guidelines for wearing hard hats, eye protection, and hard-toed boots and shoes on the job.

The best way to prevent workplace eye injuries is to wear safety goggles, glasses, and face shields.

6. Machinery and Tool Accidents

Some of the most horrendous workplace injuries are caused by machinery accidents. Machinery accidents are a leading cause of finger injuries, including amputations.

Crushing and entrapment in heavy machinery can result in the amputation or loss of use of a worker’s hand, arm, leg, or foot. Entanglement can happen when a worker’s clothing or hair is pulled into a machine.

Faulty equipment and lack of maintenance often result in operator injury. It is management’s responsibility to ensure equipment is maintained according to the manufacturer and regulatory agency’s guidelines.

Proper Training is Essential to Safety

Some jobs require formal training. Improper or insufficient training in the operation of machinery, heavy vehicles like forklifts, power tools, and handling of toxic substances is an invitation to accidents.

Continuing education and regular reviews of workers’ skills are vital to avoiding unsafe working conditions and protecting employees from injury.

7. Repetitive Motion Injuries

Sometimes called repetitive stress injuries, repetitive motion injuries are a type of occupational injury caused by performing the same motion over and over again, like hammering, typing, or scanning groceries.

Repetitive motion injuries are temporary or permanent injuries to muscles, nerves, ligaments or tendons, and may result in shoulder and neck pain, arm and wrist pain, and vision problems.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most commonly reported repetitive motion injury.

Minimizing Repetitive Motion Injuries

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.

8. Chemical and Thermal Burns

Burn injures in the workplace may be superficial first-degree burns from brief contact with a hot object, to potentially lethal third-degree burns from flash fires, molten metal, and other super-hot substances.

Chemical burns are injuries to the skin, mouth, eyes, or internal organs caused by contact with a corrosive substance. Corrosive substances in the workplace can range from chemicals used in hair and nail salons, to acids and other substances used in manufacturing and mining industries.

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

Safe Handling of Dangerous Materials

Employers should provide training and clear guidelines for workers who will be dealing with toxic substances, or engaging in other potentially hazardous activities. Company-specific safety checklists take the guesswork out of operational activities and help prevent industrial accidents.

Additionally, workers should be provided and trained in the use of appropriate safety gear and protective equipment, including respirators, safety goggles, gloves, and so on.

9. 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 like robbery can happen at work. 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 a workplace assault or other violence, you are as eligible for compensation as any other injured worker.

Safe Work Environments

Reducing common job-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. This entails running criminal background checks, contacting prospective employees’ references, and drug screening. Employees are often injured by their coworkers, even though it’s often unintentional.

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.

1. Seek Medical Help

The first action after any 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.

2. File Your Workers’ Comp Claim

File your workers’ comp claim as soon as possible. Most states have strict deadlines for filing your work 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 what workers’ compensation covers, and what you must do to maximize your compensation.

3. Consider Hiring an Attorney

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 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.

Most workers’ compensation attorneys offer a free consultation. It costs you nothing to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>