Workplace injuries are more common than you might think. They can happen to almost any employee, from construction workers to administrative professionals. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows there were almost 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2014. Factoring in the number of workers in the United States means that 3 out of every 100 employees were injured.
As workers’ comp lawyers, we know better than anyone else that accidents happen. Understanding the circumstances surrounding workplace accidents is an excellent first step in preventing them.
Today, we’ll talk about some of the most common work injuries, why they happen, and how they can be prevented. We’ll also discuss what you should do if you’re injured on the job and how hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help your case.
Most Dangerous Workplaces
No matter what you do, it’s possible you could be injured at work. That said, there are jobs that are much more dangerous than others. Earlier this year, Time published an article with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics outlining the most dangerous jobs in America. The list ranked jobs based on how many fatal injuries occurred per 100,000 people in 2014. They are:
- Logging workers
- Fishers and related fishing workers
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
- Refuse and recyclable material collectors
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
- Structural iron and steel workers
- Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
- Electrical power-line installers and repairers
- Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
- First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
- Construction laborers
- First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and grounds keeping workers
- Maintenance and repairs workers, general
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- Grounds maintenance workers
- First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
- Painters, construction and maintenance
- Telecommunications line installers and repairers
Types of Work Injuries
The injuries you could sustain at the workplace vary on what your occupation is. For instance, a construction worker is more likely to break a bone than someone working in a cubicle. Many clients come to us with workplace injuries such as:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Spinal cord
- Herniated discs
- Fractures/broken bones
- Amputated or crushed limbs
- Soft tissue injuries
- Wrongful death
Common Causes of Work Injuries and How to Prevent Them
It is your employer’s responsibility to ensure you and your coworkers are adequately trained and work in a safe environment. When they fail to do this, work injuries are far more likely to occur. Here is a break down of the most common injuries employees suffer on the job and what your employer should be doing to prevent them.
Workplace Violence happens to over 2 million American workers every year. Of the 4,679 workplace injury deaths in 2014, 403 were homicides.
Prevention: The actions of an individual can never be predicted, but there are things employers can do so their employees never feel the need to be violent toward their coworkers. Written codes of conduct, anger management training, and harassment policies are a good first steps. Employers should provide a place for disgruntled workers to address their conflicts and communicate openly without fear of judgment.
Machine Entanglement is a risk at any factory or business with large machinery. The moving parts can easily trap and destroy hair, fingers and limbs.
Prevention: When operating machinery with moving parts, take great care to keep loose strings, clothing and hair out of the way. Employees should be trained to never put their hands, arms, feet, or legs inside or near the opening of an operating machine.
Fires/Explosions are often the result of human error because heating or electrical equipment is improperly used, stored or maintained. Other workplace fires can be the result of equipment failure.
Prevention: Cutting down on office clutter, properly storing fuels and flammable materials, and providing proper fire extinguisher training can significantly reduce the chance of a fire happening in your workplace.
Hazardous Materials cause injuries when they are improperly stored or used. Employees exposed to these materials can suffer burns or develop life-changing diseases or disabilities.
Prevention: In any workplace where hazardous materials are used, it’s essential that a hazmat safety plan be in effect. This should be accompanied by training on how to handle these materials and ensuring they are properly labeled and stored.
Repetitive Motion can cause wear and tear on muscles and joints over time. Workers doing the same motion over and over again are at risk for conditions like carpal tunnel and tennis elbow.
Prevention: Take frequent breaks to avoid repetitive motion injuries. Ergonomically designed office equipment, like desks, chairs, and keyboards, can also prevent these injuries.
Lifting heavy items is something that factory, warehouse and office workers alike do often. Unfortunately, lifting objects can cause serious muscle, tendon and ligament damage if done incorrectly.
Prevention: Stopping lifting injuries is easy. If the item isn’t too heavy, crouch down, keep your back upright, and lift with your legs. If the object is too heavy, ask for help or let your boss know you’re unable to lift the object safely.
Collisions can happen when an employee is operating machinery or driving a company car. Most of the time, workplace collisions are car accidents and happen on regular roads.
Prevention: You can’t know what another driver is going to do, but employees can help protect themselves by being aware of their surroundings, wearing a seatbelt, and obtaining the training required to safely operate special vehicles (e.g. semi-truck).
Stress, Fatigue and Overexertion can happen to any employee in any position. They are usually caused by trying to do too much work with too little energy. That can lead to an inability to pay attention to details, impaired judgment, and slower reflexes.
Prevention: Employers have to understand the limits of their employees’ capabilities and provide breaks to combat fatigue. If you feel that you’re being overworked or overloaded, speak up. Every worker has the right to file an anonymous complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Slips, Trips and Falls can be caused by wet floors, cluttered areas, and unsafe structures, among other things. These accidents can cause a wide variety of injuries, especially if the worker falls from a higher level to a lower level.
Prevention: Proper housekeeping is key to prevent slips, trips and falls. It’s as simple as keeping the workplace clean and uncluttered. Tools and other equipment shouldn’t pose a trip hazard and anti-slip materials should be used where needed.
Falling Objects are a major problem on construction sites. Too often a tool or piece of building material will fall down, seriously injuring and possibly killing a worker.
Prevention: Hardhats must be used by every employee in a workplace where multiple levels or heights could allow objects to fall. Tools should also be anchored at all times and any dangerous areas need to be pointed out for employees to avoid.
What to Do After a Work Injury
If you are injured on the job, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits through the Department of Labor. Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Laws entitle you to these benefits as long as the injury occurred on the job and as a result of that job’s duties.
Follow these important steps to ensure that you have the best chance of receiving the benefits you’re entitled to:
- Report any on-the-job injury to your supervisor immediately
- Get medical attention right away
- Follow your doctor’s instructions for recovery and take any prescribed medication
- Collect information from witnesses
- Keep a written record of how and when the injury occurred, as well much time off work you have had to take
- Keep copies of receipts for your medical expenses
When Should I Contact a Workers’ Comp Attorney
Hiring a lawyer can help you navigate the workers’ comp process. The first thing your employer’s insurer will do is get a recorded statement about how the accident occurred. Having an attorney present during this interview can prevent you from providing information that could hurt your case. They will do whatever it takes to get you to say something that can, and will, be used against you.
Your employer’s insurer will also offer you a smaller settlement than your injuries are worth. Taking the first settlement you’re offered is almost never a good idea. Insurance companies are low-balling you, hoping to save some money.
Nebraska is a business-friendly state, which can make it tougher for workers to get compensation for their injuries. If you or a loved one have been involved in a work-related accident or illness, contact one of our Omaha workers’ compensation lawyers. Call to schedule a free consultation at (402) 281-9706.
This post was written by Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop