5 Common Workplace Injuries
According to the National Safety Council, every 7 seconds in America, an employee is injured at work. In 2020 alone, there were 4 million work-related injuries requiring medical attention, costing a whopping $164 billion. And as injury-at-work lawyers, we know statistics like these don’t account for the effects of common workplace injuries on the personal lives of affected workers. Such effects include pain and suffering, loss of earning potential, disability, and ripple effects on their families and coworkers.
Although the most common workplace injuries will vary from job to job, five of the most common are:
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments
- Overexertion and repetitive stress
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Being struck by an object or equipment
- Vehicle accidents
You’ll be better prepared to avoid these potential dangers by becoming familiar with them. So let’s take a closer look at each and how you can protect yourself against them.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Even if they don’t result in a fall, slips and trips can cause strains and tears to muscles and tendons, and the impact from falls can cause back injuries, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries. You can fall on the same level after a slip or trip or fall from a height, such as a ladder.
Spills, wet or oily surfaces, and weather hazards like ice or rain are the most common causes of slips, while poor lighting, clutter, uncovered cables, and uneven surfaces are the culprits behind most trips. You can help avoid these workplace accidents by keeping work areas clean and uncluttered, addressing slippery areas by using non-slip rugs or non-skid tape and clearly labeling uneven walkways.
If you’re frequently exposed to slippery surfaces, wear good shoes with non-slip soles. And when using a ladder, even a stepstool, be sure it’s firmly anchored on solid, even ground, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the ladder’s weight and height limit.
In 2020 alone, work-related vehicle accidents caused 41,000 injuries in the US. Vehicles can hit other vehicles, coworkers, and other pedestrians. Vehicle operators can also fall from moving vehicles. As West Virginia injury at-work lawyers, vehicle accidents at work are probably the most common type of work injury we see. From small vehicles in the workplace, like forklifts and scissor lifts, to company cars and trucks traveling between sites, to tractor-trailers transporting goods, vehicle accidents can be devastating and even cause wrongful death.
Just like driving your personal vehicle, being aware and alert is the best way to prevent motor vehicle accidents. Beyond that, it’s important to ensure that you’re qualified (and licensed, if applicable) to operate the vehicle you’re using. Drive at a safe speed, and follow the road signs. If you become tired on the road, take breaks when you need to rest, stretch, and maybe have a cup of coffee.
Being struck by an object or equipment
Loose clothing or parts of your body can get caught in the moving machine parts, causing severe, sometimes catastrophic injury. If you aren’t wearing protective gear, objects flying out of the machinery can damage your eyes and other body parts. Even retail workers are vulnerable to being struck by merchandise falling from tall storage shelves.
You can usually avoid these types of injuries by following the safety protocols and safe operating procedures for the equipment at your workplace. Wear personal protective equipment—like a hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, and steel-toed shoes. Always be aware of your environment, especially in potentially hazardous areas. Be particularly aware of moving equipment and objects in your work area, and store heavy objects close to the ground so that they don’t fall from above.
And as with all work hazards, contact OSHA if your employer refuses to remove dangerous work conditions. It’s confidential, and you may save your life or health and a co-worker’s. Or call one of our WV injury-at-work lawyers for a free consultation.
Exposure to harmful substances or environments
When you think of harmful substances and environments, you might think of the dangers of chemicals, radiation, and electricity, which are certainly part of the picture. But in the past two years, exposure to the COVID-19 virus in the workplace has led this category to the top of the list, and it now accounts for more than a third of all injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work.
Whether breathing toxic fumes; being exposed to chemicals, radiation, or electrical shock; or contracting COVID-19, harmful environments can cause short-term injury and long-term damage to every body system.
Make sure your workplace has measures in place to keep employees safe. Keep an eye out for improper storage and handling of hazardous materials, and bring any safety issues to your employer’s attention. Your employer should provide the necessary protective equipment to keep you safe and healthy at work, so make sure you use it.
If your employer refuses to follow safety rules and exposes you to hazardous conditions or substances, contact OSHA toll-free at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA) or by email, or contact your nearest OSHA office. Your information will be kept confidential!
Overexertion and Repetitive Stress
Overexertion injuries are caused by excessive physical effort, usually when lifting, pushing, holding, or carrying. These often occur when you try to move something too heavy or have to exert yourself for too long. Improper body mechanics can also contribute to this type of injury.
Repetitive stress injuries occur from doing the same motion over and over again over a long period. Eventually, the repetitive motion results in stress or strain on a particular part of the body. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a typical example of this type of injury frequently experienced by those who type and mouse at a computer keyboard all day.
You can prevent many of these injuries by using proper ergonomics while working. Good body mechanics will allow you to work comfortably with minimal strain. If something is too heavy for you to lift or carry comfortably, get a coworker to help you. Taking frequent, short breaks is another good way to prevent stress and fatigue from building up and causing an injury.
If you develop an injury or disability, your employer must provide a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For details on how to get reasonable accommodations, see this article on reasonable accommodations.
Common Workplace Injuries – What to Do?
If you’re injured at work, report the incident to your employer or supervisor, even if the injury is minor. You can avoid further injury to yourself, coworkers, and customers by alerting your employer as soon as possible. Early reporting is also essential if you file for worker’s compensation.
Next, get medical attention for your injury. A medical assessment can help you heal faster, and it’s an important part of documenting the time, location, causes, and extent of your injury for future claims.
You have the right to a safe workplace, and your employer is legally responsible for ensuring that your working conditions are free of known dangers. If you’ve been injured on the job, you should consider consulting with a personal injury lawyer to protect your rights and handle any claims you may have.
Free Consultation With a Top-Rated West Virginia Work Accident Lawyer
We hope this article helps keep you safe at work. If you have been injured at work, we encourage you to call the West Virginia injury-at-work lawyers at West Law Firm for a Free Consultation. West Law Firm focuses exclusively on helping people injured in West Virginia accidents or hurt by negligence. Our toll-free number is 1-877-943-9378 (WEST).
At West Law Firm, there’s No Fee unless you recover compensation.
Brooks West is a West Virginia personal injury lawyer who helps people who have been injured by negligence or wrongful conduct. He is the President and founder of West Law Firm and has been an attorney since 2005. Brooks is a Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum member and has been awarded the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.